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Jan 31, 2009 11:01 PM

Why is the coral separated from the scallop?

In the US why is the coral of scallops removed, and what happens to it? Whether in the markets or served in restaurants, it's as if the coral doesn't exist. Here in France where I've been for a few months, the coral is attached or served with the scallops.

I could also ask why we in the US are deprived of the sight of a composition of whole fish on ice as seen here in every supermarket, instead of rows of fillets, but that's another topic.

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  1. Not every supermarket is fillet only - check out the Chinese supermarkets.

    1. The coral is highly perishable and deteriorates much more quickly than the scallop muscle itself. It's not practical for shipping and handling through the wholesale process.
      Some restaurants will get the scallops with roe attached because they get it straight from the supplier rather than through wholesalers.

      Sadly, most Americans prefer fillets to whole fish. They don't want to deal with the bones. Some even object to the sight of the entire fish with the head. If they buy it that way, they'll ask the fishmonger to fillet it for them, and don't even take the fish frames and heads with them for making stock. Go figure. Fishmongers do make a profit however selling the frames and heads to others.

      3 Replies
      1. re: MakingSense

        I will comment on your other topic - whole fish. I live in Canada and will include this country where, it seems, most people do not like the sight of whole fish.
        I'll order whole fish in a restaurant over fillets whenever I can. It comes on the plate as a beautiful thing, but others don't seem to share this enthusiasm;
        "Thats gross" or "Uggh" or "How can you eat something thats looking back at you" etc etc

        Steams me.

        1. re: MakingSense

          On the subject of whole fish, the other issue is that Americans love big fish. For a lot of people, buying a whole salmon, tuna, swordfish, et cetera, just isn't practical. I know I could not come close to using any of those before they were no longer fresh. I prefer mostly smaller fish, which are sold whole at any decent fish market in New England.

        2. I personally love the coral of scallops and it's so sad that you can't get it in the US. Occasionally I can find whole scallops in shells or the corals as sashimi, but only very rarely, and usually come with a high price. I recalled having a dish in England which was made with just a plate of corals! It's a wonderful dish.

          3 Replies
          1. re: kobetobiko

            The only place I see scallop with coral regularly is at a local Japanese market here in Boston (Kotobukiya, they have great fish), so they must get them somewhere. I am definitely grateful.

            Another place that had them routinely 10 or 20 years ago was the Brickskeller restaurant in DC. Don't know where they got them though.

            1. re: kobetobiko

              Please check out Martin Fish Company at the commercial harbor in West Ocean City. They've started to carry live local scallops still in their mangificent shells as nature intended us to eat them. Last weekend we had the sushi-style the first night. The next day I pan seared them with garlic and Applewood smoked bacon, finished with a Pernod cream sauce served over wilted baby spinach! Mmmm, mmmm, good! We're picking up 3 dozen tomorrow morning for our "celebration of scallops" shindig. Check out Martin Fish please! 410-213-2195 and ask for Erika!

              1. re: kobetobiko

                I found shucked scallops sold with the coral at Citarella a few weeks ago selling for a whopping 28 bucks a pound. They'd probably be less expensive if purchased still in the shell and I'm fairly certain they can be gotten at Hunt's Point and can probably be ordered through any reputable fishmonger if they don't already carry them.

              2. Thank you all for your comments, from which I learn that we in the US do not have access to really fresh fish (coral deteriorates quickly) and that we are happy to eat things without considering the true origin (fillet was once a live creature) and that we miss out on the pleasure of seeing the beauty of these creatures in their environment, which prevents us perhaps from feeling responsible for maintaining its vitality.

                3 Replies
                1. re: cassis

                  You are absolutely correct in your post. Unfortunately the majority of the US has been "Walmart-icized" and the grocery stores are now filled with boneless skinless chicken breast, bland pork chops, farm-raised tilapia, and the occasional steak.

                  With that said, most people in the US do not live in an area where really fresh seafood is easily attainable. For example, you live in Boston and are more likely to have access to super-fresh seafood simply because of your location in the world. People in Oklahoma City don't have that luxury so to appeal to the masses, the people who supply the fish must adhere to the lowest common denominator approach.

                  In other words: Fish Company A is a huge seafood supplier. They provide scallops, shrimp, and cod to grocery stores all over the US and their goal is not only to provide quality product but to make money too. In order to make money that supports their business model, they have to sell their seafood all over the US, not just in small niche markets in seaside cities. Their product is processed in a large facility in... let's say Boston. So in order to ensure a quality product they process all their scallops in the same way, cut off the roe, flash freeze the actual scallop and bag and box them. In the truck they go and they're off on their journey. This way they can provide a good product and sell it not only in Boston, but in Oklahoma City as well and everywhere in between. Everyone gets the same thing at the same, affordable price.

                  Now there's Seafood Company B too. This company is a much smaller company and tries to provide the best quality product for high-end restaurants and small seafood markets. They run day boats and their seafood is delivered fresh every afternoon. They sell scallops with the roe still attached because #1 they are back into port every day so their product is really fresh, and #2 their buyers will likely pay the higher price that this kind of product calls for. So company B gets top dollar for their product and have a good, working relationship with their customers so if the customer asks for scallops with roe, company B can provide those scallops with roe.

                  These types of businesses can be transferred to all foods from produce to poultry.

                  Now, I'll preface this by saying I absolutely agree with your statements above but...
                  Obviously you can see what business is more common: Fish Company A. This is where most people get their food. This is the company that can supply the most product at the cheapest price to the widest audience. Sounds a little like Walmart, right?! That's why I said that above. It doesn't mean it's the best, it just means that it's the most common. Now add 50 years of this type of business dominating the US market and you get what we have today. People get so used to buying what the grocery store tells them to buy that they don't know any better.

                  1. re: cassis

                    The issue is not simply a matter of you living in a large country but one of attitudes to food.

                    I'm British. Nowwhere in my country is more than 70 miles from the sea. Yet fillets of fish are almost all you will see in a supermarket. We no longer prize what's almost on our doorstep.

                    I'm fortunate that I can walk to the next village which still has a fishmonger; buy a fish and get her/him to gut, scale and prep it any way I need.

                    I contrast that with Spain where many places are many kilometres from the sea and yet even in small towns you will see spankingly fresh fish. It's because the Spanish prize their seafood.

                    1. re: Harters

                      Going back to a more whole-animal approach to buying food takes a bit of getting used to. I had the experience recently of going from a visit in Canada (neat boxes of frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts), to standing in an outdoor market listening to the chickens cluck while I waited for mine to be gutted and cleaned. And never mind the pig faces hanging on the hook the next stall over....

                      But I've grown to absolutely love whole fish. They're easier to cook, it's much easier to tell what kind of fish you've got and how fresh they are, and if I want it gutted or fileted or chopped into pieces, I can get it done easily (as long as I can express what I want in Chinese). And when I buy clams or shrimp, I know their fresh because they are live when I get them.

                      And a lot of smaller fish aren't practical to fillet, so you just don't see them in stores at all in Canada and the US.

                  2. The only way to get good fish/shellfish in the US is to go to the source, i.e. to the fisherman or the grower. That's what I have been doing for 20 years, as I could not find the same variety and quality I enjoyed in France, specially in Paris where all the fish is shipped every night right out of the boat from Normandy and Brittany. Here in NY going to the fish market, now at Hunts Point in the Bronx, is an option, but it does not guarantee freshness. There was a piece on Food TV "Follow that fish", showing that it can take about a week for a cod caught in Boston to get to a restaurant kitchen in Pennsylvania... Oops!
                    As to scallops, which BTW are delicious in the US (larger and sweeter than the European variety), once you have passed the "dry scallops" rip off, you sometimes can find them in the shell with the roe in Japanese food stores, but at a high cost...
                    Not being able to buy scallops in the shell is really a pity because for a gourmet, there is nothing better than a scallop carpaccio WITH the roe.
                    I don't think the roe spoils any faster than the muscle part, if it is kept under proper refrigeration . Shellfish can keep for a long time. I keep my oysters and clams for 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Scallops (sea or bay) whose shell is always open can keep for at least 3 days.
                    About eating scallops, try to cook them as little as you can, like quickly sear them. Better, eat them raw if very fresh, as tartare or carpaccio, where they really taste what they are...