HOKKAIDO SCALLOPS

By: Deborah Reid

Patinopecten yessoensis

Giant Ezo scallop, Yesso scallop, Japanese scallop

Considered the best in the world, these premium scallops are prized for their fresh, sweet ocean flavour and firm yet meltingly tender texture. Hand-graded to ensure consistency in size, they are classified as a dry scallop and have a natural 83% moisture content. (Poorer quality scallops are injected or plumped with preservatives or water to get a better price.) Their shells are mottled greyish-beige with pink hues, and must be a minimum 82 mm (3 in.) or more in length to harvest. We sell them by count on our counter, indicating the number of scallops per pound. Master sushi chefs worldwide prefer U10s (under 10 per pound), and their sweet, succulent flavour and creamy texture is ideal for sashimi or ceviche. In Japan they are traditionally eaten in curried soups or cooked on the half shell over a charcoal brazier. Skewer and grill over charcoal, and lightly baste with quality soy sauce, or pan fry in butter until golden on the outside and translucent in the centre. They are low in fat, high in protein and contain minerals like calcium and iron.

Hokkaido is the northernmost island in the Japanese archipelago. Wild, unspoiled, and sparsely populated, it’s known for its abundance of seafood. The Japanese believe the quality of the scallops results from the convergence of warm and cold currents that pull plankton and nutrients into the feeding beds. Spats grow in holding tanks inland, and when a year old are “seeded” over scallop beds, where they mature for four years. A ‘free-living’ bivalve, they can swim rapidly over short distances, propelling themselves by opening and closing their shell to escape predators like starfish.

Since the 1970’s any expansion in Hokkaido scallop production is measured against sustaining the resource. Caught by dredging, an open net is lowered into the water and dragged along the scallop bed, scooping up the shellfish. The bag is closed before hauling to the surface. The scallops are shucked at port, and are not treated or sprayed with chemicals or preservatives such as tripolyphosphates. For export, they enter a freezer tunnel to Individually Quick Freeze (IQF) for shipping. Hokkaido scallops are one of the most sustainable and effective methods for shellfish culture in the world, and are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable, and listed as a Best Choice by Seafood Watch.