Highlighted Japanese IngredientScallops

A Delicious and Versatile Bivalve

The scallop is officially called Yesso scallop, a bivalve in the Pectinidae family. The shell width grows to about 20 cm, and it mainly inhabits the coast of the Pacific Ocean from the Tohoku region to Hokkaido and also the coast of the Japan Sea. Scallops are either naturally caught or farmed. However, farmed scallops are raised with nutrition from the sea just like natural ones, so there are no notable differences in taste and nutritional value. Scallops can be eaten raw as sashimi or sushi, or it may be cooked for use in various dishes. It is a representative edible shellfish of Japan that is both delicious and versatile.

Japanese Scallops Gain Popularity in the World

At present, the scallop is the most popular Japanese seafood in the world. The export volume of Japanese scallops in 2022 was about 91 billion yen(“Overview of Foreign Trade of Agricultural, Forestry, and Fishery Products,” Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), this was a record high, an increase of 42.4% from the previous year. The substantial increase in export volume was supported by the fact that an increasing number of frozen scallops (shellfish) are processed in China without the shell and then exported to North America.

Shellfish similar to scallops are also farmed in South America, China, and other areas. However, high-quality Japanese scallops are highly valued around the world, and are among the top seafood exports.

Quality Scallops Come from Hokkaido and Aomori

It is said that scallop farming studies in Japan began around 1934. Full-scale farming started in the 1970s, which enabled stable production. There are two types of scallop farming methods. One of them is the “hanging method” in which shellfish fry are suspended in seawater either on ropes or in the baskets for two to three years. In the “seabed ranching and dredge method,” shellfish fry are placed on the seabed for three to four years, and scallops are caught with a trawl. Scallops farmed in this method are sometimes treated as natural scallops.

Hokkaido and Aomori Prefecture are the main production areas and scallops from these areas are famous for their high quality. The "hanging method” is undertaken in Uchiura Bay in Hokkaido, Mutsu Bay in Aomori prefecture, and on the Japan Sea coast. and scallops are usually caught from winter to spring. The “seabed ranching and dredge method” is mainly undertaken on the coast of Okhotsk in Hokkaido, and scallops are caught from early summer to autumn.

High in Protein, Low in Fat, and Rich in Vitamins and Other Nutrients

You can eat most of the scallop in the shell if you remove the digestive tract called “uro.” The mantle (frill) is called “himo” and is eaten as a snack while drinking alcohol.

The scallop ligament (scallop meat) in the center is particularly popular, and dried and frozen ligaments are distributed as independent parts. The scallop ligament is a massive, developed muscle that it uses to open and close the shells. Scallops swim in the ocean by pumping out the seawater using the ligament. Some of them are said to have swum as far as 500 meters overnight. The scallop ligament is a massive muscle mass and, without water content, about 80% of it consists of protein. It also contains a large quantity of glutamic acid and glycine, which draws out the umami of the scallops.

Scallops contain abundant minerals such as iron and zinc, in addition to vitamins B1 and B2. Moreover, it contains plenty of taurine, a type of amino acid that is used as a main ingredient in nutritional drinks. As a high-protein, low-fat, healthy food ingredient, scallops draw increasingly strong attention.

Delivered to the World Fresh, Thanks to Cutting-Edge Processing Technologies

Excellent processing technology is a reason behind the widespread distribution of Japanese scallops across the world. Freezing of shellfish is said to be difficult in general, however, scallops are suitable for freezing, and instantaneous freezing technology has enabled frozen scallops to maintain virtually the same taste as raw ones. The quick-frozen scallop ligaments are called “Tamarei” and are served raw for consumption in sashimi and sushi.

Some scallops are distributed with the shells, while others are shipped without after going through processing such as steaming and boiling. Scallops are available in various processed products, like canned water-boiled scallops. Dried scallop ligaments are particularly popular in China.

Versatile Usage According to Food Culture and Recipes in Various Countries

Scallops have fewer particularities, like a fishy smell, and are used in various dishes according to the food culture of various countries around the world. Not only can you enjoy them in Japanese cuisine like sashimi, sushi, and grilled scallops with shells, but also in other recipes such as butter sauté, meunière, gratin, and fry. In China, scallop ligaments are one of the premium ingredients and used for soups and other dishes. Scallops have few religious and cultural restrictions, so it is a highly versatile food ingredient that is widely consumed in all parts of the world. Also, the shells of scallops cannot be eaten, but they are used extensively as a dish to serve grilled scallops and gratin. Scallop shells are often used for motifs of famous paintings and incorporated in corporate logos. Shells that are symmetrical and beautifully embellished with radial patterns also have the effect of giving a decorative touch to the dining table.