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Nov 11, 2012 07:08 AM

Where to get good Cantonese-style braised dry/preserved abalone?

I've been wanting to have some good Cantonese-style braised (usually in oyster sauce) dry/preserved abalone, something I haven't had for like a decade. There are the usual (very few) candidates: Koi Palace in Daly City, and the list of Cantonese restaurants in Millbrae (Hong Kong Flower Lounge, The Kitchen, Zen Peninsula). Most of these places charge $100-150 for their best Yoshihama abalone from Japan, at the dry weight of about 1 ounce for each whole abalone. Does anyone have recommendations? I can't find any reviews on this topic online, and at these prices, surely don't want to be a guinea pig. ;-)

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  1. You're likely not going to get many answers on this one, mostly because you already know the answer.... it's more than likely a miss than a hit getting dried seafood in SF Bay Area, unless you really know how to select and know what you are getting for the $, and/or have some relationship with the store owner. Most HK expats I know of get their dried seafood from reliable places in Hong Kong for the most part.

    There are not many places that sell dried seafood....the shops that sell them pretty much boil down to:

    - medicinal herb stores that also stock some dried seafood, like the mini chain Chung Chou City (SF Chinatown+ some south Bay Asian malls anchored by 99 Ranch or Marina Foods)

    - Chinese supermarket, inclusive of 99 Ranch and Marina Foods

    - there's one dried seafood + herb store in Cupertino Village

    One of the better options at Koi Palace is their canned abalone, the $52 a can pricing containing either abalones from South Africa or Taiwan, pre-braised complete with rich abalone thick sauces...just reheat and it's as good as any other restaurant. I normally cringe at canned abalone, but this one is too good to pass up (even makes great gifts to those who can enjoy it).

    3 Replies
      1. re: K K

        Hey K K, thanks but you are listing places to get the dry/preserved abalone instead of the restaurants that served them cooked! ;-)

        Yeah I remember you posted about Koi Palace's canned braised abalone a while back, and I asked my sister to bring me some from reputable stores in Hong Kong last year. She got many yummy things confiscated at SFO, but the various abalone cans were safe, fortunately. I assume Koi Palace's version just starts with fresh instead of dry/preserved abalone right?

        1. re: vincentlo

          Sorry, guess I wasn't in the right state of mind at the time. But my answer also alludes to the fact that even sourcing the good stuff, is a challenge, and that reconfirms everyone's MO of pretty much buying the better goods from HK (versus overpriced mediocrity here) and bringing it back for personal use (whether at home, or given to a trusted source at a restaurant). This is way too pricey of an endeavor to do any guinea pig experiments.

          The KP canned braised abalone is indeed really good...I think they do use live fresh ones, braise, then put them in cans. The two cans that I ate within the last year or so were restaurant class quality, perfect for DIY at home without breaking the bank and paying tips. They did not taste metallic to me.

          I'm sorry to hear that Robert got a really bad batch. Koi Palace isn't exactly a "get what you get for your $" kind of place unless one really knows how to order and knows staff/management, and ordering those banquet set dinners can be really iffy at times, which is really sad.

          I guess it depends on luck at times as to what gets through customs. Probably don't want to even try bringing in shark fin now, but dried seafood and dried mushrooms should be ok.

          As far as investing $$$ to eat the high end stuff at a restaurant, I'd stick with Koi Palace. Since you know how bad that glutinous rice stuffed chicken was at Zen Peninsula, I would not even risk high end abalone there.

      2. You options are very limited. I have had a good one at Asia Pearl in Millbare. It was three years ago and it was 75 each as part of high set dinner. I had to make sure the traveling head chef was there that night. In and out gone Louie's in San Francisco had a good one too. But again you need to know and trust the staff before ordering. Not something you want to be a guinea pig.

        1. Koi Palace's Web site lists a Wednesday-night special on whole abalone braised with fish maw for $15:

          1 Reply
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            $15 is dirt cheap! Another option is fresh abalone. Increasingly farmed abalone is available at reasonable prices ($25-40 for .5-1 lb). If there is an immense price gap and you're not opposed to braising it yourself, I would say look online for sources. I've eaten enough fresh to know that the smaller ones don't offer the distinct mineral taste of the large ones, but if you're braising it in a rich sauce, this might not matter as much.