Japanese scallops are versatile, delicious and nutritious. The best scallops are caught in Hokkaido and Aomori off the northern Pacific coast. Farmed or wild, fresh or frozen, Japanese scallops pack a satisfying umami punch.
There are scallops, and then there are Japanese scallops. Throughout the world, Japanese scallops, or Yesso scallops, are celebrated and have become one of the country’s most popular seafood exports.
Found across Northern Japan, Japanese scallops are famous for their large size, rich umami flavor and natural sweetness. While many scallops are still caught in the wild by fishermen, Japanese farmers, particularly in Hokkaido and Aomori Prefecture, have developed production methods, such as the hanging method, where fry are matured for up to three years suspended in seawater, maximizing the purity and taste of the finished product.
For these reasons, scallops from Hokkaido and Aomori are considered the very best in the country and by default, some of the best in the world.
A versatile, healthy and delicious seafood
As well as being utterly delicious, Japanese scallops are also highly nutritious. The shellfish are packed with vitamins and minerals. As well as iron and zinc, the humble Yesso scallop contains B vitamins and taurine. Together, this combination makes Japanese scallops a natural, refined source of energy with anti-stress benefits.
Ultimately, eating a Japanese scallop really does make you feel good. And then there’s the taste. All scallops are delicious, but Japanese scallops are noted for packing a powerful umami punch. This is thanks to the high levels of glycine, and glutamic acid, which extracts the savory flavor from the scallop.
What’s more, nothing goes to waste, making the Japanese scallop a genuine nose-to-tail, healthy eating experience. As well as the fleshy, protein-rich muscle, other parts of the scallop can be enjoyed too. In Japan, the frill that surrounds the main muscle mass of the scallop is called the himo. Dried and roasted, it’s a popular bar snack.
Different ways of preparing scallops
Scallops are a highly versatile ingredient in the kitchen, and Japanese diners eat them in many different ways. The most popular way to capture the intense flavor of Japanese scallops is to enjoy them raw.
In Japan, this means sashimi or sushi, but scallop tartare is another excellent alternative in other parts of the world. Scallops require very little cooking, so another popular way to eat them in Japan is grilled in the shell. The rose case that holds the sweet scallop makes for a perfect vessel to eat them from.
Elsewhere in the world, Japanese scallops are pan-roasted with plenty of butter and matched with complementary ingredients, like bacon, blood sausage, and cauliflower. The French Coquilles St. Jacques method is the most decadent. Scallops are cooked in a rich combination of cream, cheese, and white wine and topped with breadcrumbs.
Fresh vs. frozen, farmed vs. wild
As we mentioned earlier in this article, farmed scallops in Japan are incredibly sought after. The method of production has led to farmers being able to extract the best flavor from the shellfish. However, some purists may still prefer the wild option.
When it comes to preservation, fresh is best. There’s nothing quite like the taste of a freshly harvested Japanese scallop. That said, unlike other shellfish, scallops respond well to freezing and retain their texture and flavor when defrosted.
Thanks to ingenious preservation methods that freeze the scallop in a matter of seconds, you can enjoy Japanese scallops the world over.