Japanese scallops featured on Hong Kong TV

Published on
October 15, 2009

Scallops are among the foods a Hong Kong Chinese-language TV cooking show will feature following this week’s visit to Japan’s Aomori Prefecture, by invitation of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The show, “Those were the tastes,” is hosted by chef Wing Sun Ko. It airs on i-Cable Entertainment’s channel 12 at 10 p.m. on Saturday and averages 100,000 viewers. Ko also operates three restaurants in Panyu, China, and owns the Tai Hai Hing sauce company.

At 7 a.m. on Wednesday, the scene at Hiranai harbor resembled a busy taxi stand, as a steady stream of boats queued for off-loading. At the port, cargo nets full of farmed scallops were lifted from the boats by crane and dumped into the hopper of a conveyor that fed into trucks. They were then whisked away, still alive, to the processing plant.

Ko tried his hand at releasing the drawstring of the net but found there is a knack to it, as the contents rapidly filled the hopper and spilled over to the dock.

Scallops are popular in Hong Kong, but are not produced there. However, small scallops are produced in the northern Chinese cities of Dalian and Qingdao. They are usually preserved by drying, which concentrates the flavor. They are rehydrated by soaking in warm water before cooking.

Ko said the larger Japanese scallops are used for upscale restaurants, where they make an impressive plate presentation. Though upscale restaurants in Hong Kong lost a lot business following last fall’s financial collapse, Ko said they are recovering.

The crew then filmed in an adjacent processing plant that was thawing previously frozen scallops with a water bath, removing the hepatopancreas (gut sack) and scanning for shell fragments by x-ray. The scallops, now consisting of adductor, gills and gonads, the preferred form for scallops in the Japanese market, were then frozen by contact freezer. Most Chinese, like Americans, prefer to eat only the adductor muscle, the main muscle that opens and closes the shell, though some older Chinese consumers eat the whole scallop.

Finally, Ko and hostess Flora Mable Cho cooked two scallop dishes at the nearby Hotate Hiroba (Scallop Square), a souvenir shop offering all types of scallop foods, including scallop ice cream, which Cho described as “weird.” Their first dish was a stir fry with scallops, garlic, bell peppers, soy sauce, XO sauce and Japanese sake; the second was cabbage and carrots with scallops, steamed in sake.

With all due respect to Ko’s skills, the most popular dish of the day was prepared by Scallop Square manager Ryoichi Notodani, who simply started shucking live scallops and offering them raw on the half shell. The entire film crew lined up and ate as fast as they could shuck, sneaking back in line for seconds.

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Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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