CULTURAL VALUE

OF ABALONE

The Famous Dish "Buddha Jumped Over the Wall"

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ABALONE & CULTURE

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ABALONE IN ASIAN CUISINE CULTURE

5,000 years of history has evolved a food culture in China that is concerned with the quality of life; understanding that good health brings the chance of success and happiness and that good food is the foundation.

There are few things in Asian Cuisine that carry such significant meaning as that which is attached to ‘Abalone’. We may talk about gold which has been a symbol of wealth and power since early history but there is little else in the world that carries the same dramatic connotation and certainly not in the food category. The Ancient Chinese gold ingot has a remarkably similar shape to Abalone. The ingots were used as currency as early as the Qing Dynasty (221 to 207 BC).

In China, Abalone is culturally the premium food item served to celebrate special occasions or to honour guests. Its first recorded use in imperial cuisine appears in the Zhou Li, a Confucian text dating to the 2nd century BC when emperors were already fond of the dish. During the 17th century AD, abalone was considered the top of the eight ‘marine treasures’ along with sea cucumber, shark fin, and fish maw (swim bladder of fish) reserved for senior Qing Dynasty officials. Today, abalone remains one of the most prestigious ingredients in Chinese Cultural Cuisine.

There is a history of ‘benefits’ assigned to the various ‘Sea Treasures’, especially focussing on health and success: 

  • Abalone has been referred to as the ‘cow of the sea’ grazing on seaweed. It is said to represent ‘health’.

  • Sea Cucumber (the ginseng of the sea) is said to represent ‘wisdom’.

  • Sharks’ Fin said to represent ‘power’.

  • Fish Maw representing the ‘ability to survive’.

• victoria's jewel in the crown •

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Japan, Korea and other Asian countries similarly share the cultural view of abalone as highly ‘prestigious’.

There are many interesting stories that promote the mystique around Abalone and the ‘Sea Treasures’. A famous dish known as “Buddha Jumped over the Wall” was born from a story about a Buddhist Monk who was on his regular walk when he was captured by an irresistible aroma coming from some cooking on the other side of a wall. He could not resist, despite his vows of abstinence and he jumped over the wall to partake in a luxurious dish that contained Abalone, Shark’s Fin, Sea Cucumber and Fish Maw.

Until the advent of aquaculture, Australia produced approximately 50% of the world’s abalone. Today aquaculture in Asia totals approximately 150,000 tonnes. It has eclipsed global wild production (6,500 tonnes), yet a substantial marketing advantage still remains with the Victorian Wild Catch Industry. There is a measurable preference in the market for Wild resource and Victoria can capitalise on this demand. Wild abalone is much larger in size and has varietal and regional differences that provide strong marketing opportunities.

The growing number of inbound visitors from Asia provides Victoria with a unique and highly valuable promotional tool. Victoria can be branded as the place to see and experience that culturally important Abalone as well as our other magnificent seafoods that are natural to our coastline and are managed sustainably by our State authorities.

Australia’s clean and green image supported by quality wild-caught seafood experiences are a major drawcard for Victoria. The capitalisation of such an identity for our State provides substantial opportunities for growth in tourism and consequently regional and rural economic growth.

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