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Scallops From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

Scallops From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

From Aphrodite to (almost) Zero calories, have a look at 26 interesting facts and figures about scallops, a gourmet ingredient you can't miss.

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Aphrodite. The scallop is the symbol of Aphrodite - Venus to the Romans - the divinity of beauty and love. The goddess is in fact depicted on a mother-of-pearl fan-shaped shell immersed in sea foam in the waters off the Island of Cyprus where she was born. Consequently, she also represents the feminine principle and fertility.

Botticelli. The most famous image of the Birth of Venus is certainly the painting by Italian artist Sandro Botticelli, dating back to the late 1400’s and kept in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence.

Conpoy. The dried scallop that is typical of Chinese cuisine, with its pungent smell of the sea and umami flavour. It is actually dried after being cooked.

Diver. Less than 1% of all scallops caught can be classified as “diver scallops”. Harvested manually from the ocean floor by professional scuba diver fishermen, this method provides us with scallops of sublime quality since the creatures are less stressed, full of oxygen and the water in which they are preserved is less gritty and free of chemical products.

Eyes. A characteristic peculiar to scallops is that they have “eyes” similar to a catadioptric optical system, which means that they work on the principle of refraction. They look like bluish black dots and are clearly visible on the edges of the shell.

France to China. And back: flesh and shell do not always travel together. To clean the splendid fan-shaped shell at a lower cost, processing industries often separate them. For example, the shells are transported from France to China, where they are polished before being returned to sender. Here they are reunited with the body of the mollusc.

Godefishe. The name given to scallops in the dialect of Normandy and used by French writer Gustave Flaubert in some of his celebrated romances, including Madame Bovary.

Hotate. Scallop sushi, the sweetest and most tender of all sushi molluscs.

Ice-cream. Scallop ice-cream? Why not! A delicacy to be found in the Japanese prefecture of Aomori, where you may also opt for a hotate-flavoured cone, tasting of Yesso scallop.

Jacobaeus. The Mediterranean scallop belongs to the Pecten jacobaeus species while the Pecten maxima inhabits the seas of northern Europe. However, there are very many species and subspecies of this mollusc.

Kaibashira. The term is commonly used to refer to scallops in Japanese but, in actual fact, it means the adductor muscle of any mollusc.

Lady D. The Spencer family’s coat of arms, and consequently that of Princess Diana, includes a scallop shell. Among other people, Winston Churchill shared the same emblem.

Muscle. What we call a scallop, that is to say, the flesh of the mollusc, is actually its round adductor muscle. The other edible part of the creature consists of its reproductive glands, the so-called “coral”, which is much softer, pinky-orange or greyish in colour and shaped like a half moon.

Nosecount. The Santa Rosa Sound Great Scallop Search, carried out in the middle of summer in 2015, gathered together 40 teams of voluntary operators, equipped with mask and snorkel, to effect a census of the scallop population in this stretch of sea off the Florida coast.

Oven. By far the most famous recipe for cooking scallops is to gratin them in the oven. The term “scalloped” derives from this method of preparing the mollusc served in its shell with a creamy sauce and is now attributed to dishes that have nothing to do with this particular seafood.

Plankton. Scallops mainly eat plankton. So, they feed by filtering the water: it may be risky to eat them raw, even though they are certainly a delicacy.

Quick. This bivalve mollusc moves rapidly by means of jet propulsion, owing to the force of the water pressure it creates by rapidly opening and closing its shell. This is how it escapes from its predators, mainly starfish.

Roe. There is a particularly high demand for scallops in the season prior to reproduction, when its gonad or roe is full: an authentic delicacy. The gonad has an orange-red female ovary and a creamy white male testis: the scallop is in fact hermaphrodite.

Saint Jacques. The French name for this shellfish: it derives from a medieval custom adopted by Christian pilgrims bound for Santiago de Compostela – whose emblem is the scallop. After crossing France and Spain and reaching their destination of Santiago (Saint Jacques in French), they used to collect these shells and wear them as lucky charms.

Trawling. Scallops are either trawl fished or dredged. Some of the scallops traded on the market come from breeding grounds, mainly located in China and Japan. Scallop farming is generally more sustainable than many other types of fish farming.

Umami. Owing to their high content of naturally occurring glutamate (159 mg/100g), scallops are one of the foods most typically associated with the taste of umami.

Vieiras a la gallega. Don’t miss this Spanish tapas speciality, a typical Galician recipe in which scallops are baked in the oven coated with a sauce of fried onions, Serrano ham, local white wine, tomato sauce and breadcrumbs.

Wet packed. In the United States, scallops are often sold “wet packed”, that is to say processed with sodium tripolyphosphate, a preservative that makes them absorb moisture so that they become whiter and heavier – and therefore more expensive – and not quite so tasty as their “dry packed” equivalent which are deep frozen in their natural state.

Xo sauce. This is a Chinese sauce from Hong Kong, which is not only used to dress scallops but actually contains scallops as one of its main ingredients, together with dried shrimps, chilli pepper, garlic, Jinhua ham and rapeseed oil.

Yesso. The Yesso scallop - Patinopecten yessoensis - is a species living in the seas of Eastern Asia, where it is also farmed. It generates an annual turnover worth millions of dollars.

Zero calories. Scallops are very low in calories, less than 100 calories per 100 grams.

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