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Abalone (Haliotis tuberculata)

Snail-like marine mollusc, up to 25 cm in length, living mainly in Pacific waters; and very popular in Chinese cooking - particularly in soup. They are also known as "Ormers" and "Ear-Shells"

They are also found in the Mediterranean (in France they are called Ormeau & in Italy Orecchia marina), and as far north as the Channel Islands in the North Atlantic (although these specimens generally only grow to about 12 cm); but obtaining them is not easy, as they live at depths only reached by diving enthusiasts

In Britain they will probably be purchased tinned from a Chinese specialist shop. To prepare them, they should be drained (reserving the liquid for flavouring a sauce) and then cooked very briefly - or they will become tough and rubbery.

If finding fresh abalone, remove them from their shells and flatten them with a wooden mallet - followed by a few minutes steaming. If this method isn't practised they will need cooking in a casserole very slowly for about three hours to make them tender.

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