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Several times recently I've ordered fried and casserole seafood dishes which include scallops. The 'scallops' look like but miss the texture and taste of our local sea scallops. Not bad but not what would expect.
Last night at an unnamed ( not Legal) place the seafood casserole was mainly scallops with a little shrimp, white fish and lobster thrown in. I commented on the number of scallops because they are pretty expensive. Next thing I knew we had a different waiter for the rest of the evening. Guess he was afraid I'd complain. I didn't out of consideration for my dining companions.
So, what's up? Are the scallops wet, imported from someplace or are they even scallops?
Has anyone else run into the same issue?

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  1. In a seafood casserole, a restaurant can get away with wet or frozen scallops...though pace urban legend I doubt they are simply discs punched from another form of fish or seafood.

    1. i am a big fan of our local Nantucket scallops. They are the bet scallops I have ever eaten but are seasonal.

      Other scallops are not quite so tasty.

      If you think that they had bad scallops, name names.

      You have to be careful about seafood restaurants. A good steak requires a lot less care than good seafood.

      1. The scallops in a seafood casserole are most likely not fresh, dry scallops. I picked up some for dinner last night at New Deal and they run over a dollar each- ouch! (They are best lightly seared, and in my opinion would be a waste in a heavily sauced dish or chowder.) Maybe the scallops in your dish were previously frozen?

          1. am not sure that you have reasonable expectations about what goes into a "seafood" casserole. a heavy sauce and breadcrumbs will hide a multitude of sins.

            however, in this case, where you got loads, am guessing they were on the downhill side of fresh, as well as wet/frozen.

            at a brookline sushi place that no longer exists, i definitely got punched fish instead of scallops. i did complain. the texture wasn't even close. only the color, lol.

            18 Replies
              1. re: StriperGuy

                A neighbor of mine growing up was a commercial fisherman. He went to a well regarded New Bedford seafood restaurant, and was served punched skate. He asked to see the chef. The chef came out, he pulled apart a scallop, which had horizontal flesh, instead of vertical. He looked at the chef, and said, "I'm a fisherman. Need I say more?" The chef grabbed his plate and asked him what else he wanted, on the house. He went with lobster.

                1. re: kimfair1

                  I thought you're going to say he served up a dish of punched chef ha ha.

                  1. re: kimfair1

                    I think you have it backwards. Scallop have a vertical grain like this one:

                    1. re: zackly

                      Right - kimfair1's point was that the "scallop" that the diner pulled apart had a horizontal grain, i.e., it wasn't a scallop.

                      1. re: Allstonian

                        Yes, I felt it my duty to correct the post because if I didn't some Chowhounders might complain about the real thing.I don't doubt its happened but I've never seen a punched scallop in all my years of buying them for home and food service & importing them form Japan. Nor have I ever heard from any of my many friends in the industry of them encountering any "skate wing scallops". If it was done @ some point in history it's not done now in the age of Google Images.

                        1. re: zackly

                          Skate wing scallops are typically made AT the dining establishment, not sold that way wholesale, or retail.

                          I guarantee you that many of the places selling fried scallops, where the breading hides a lot, are still using skate wing.

                          Very hard to tell a heavily breaded, then deep fried chunk of skate is not scallop unless you really pull it apart.

                          1. re: StriperGuy

                            Like I said I've never encountered them but I'll take your word the practice still continues. What I have seen used as scallops are imitation surimi scallops, made like imitation crabmeat & lobster,They are used extensively by many Asian restaurants especially Chinese takeout joints. They come breaded to deep fry & un-breaded to stir fry.They cost a couple dollars a pound and are not bad tasting.

                            1. re: zackly

                              AHHHH, the old meat glue scallops. Bits and pieces of scallop meat glued together, just like they do with beef fillets. US Foods pushes these products.

                              1. re: Tom34

                                I think that's exactly right. They are scallop medallions, made of bits and pieces of smaller scallops. Google scallop medallions and you'll find a lot of information.

                                As I mentioned earlier, the 'scallops' didn't have a bad or spoiled taste. They did resemble scallops somewhat but were clearly not real New England sea scallops.

                                1. re: Tom34

                                  They are two different things. I'm talking imitation scallops made like imitation crab out of cheap white fish like Alaskan pollock and contain zero real scallop meat. The "meat glue" scallop medallions actually are made from scallop pieces as you described. i'd rater have a medallion than an over processed real scallop.

                                  1. re: zackly

                                    off topic for the boston board, but in Calif. calamari "steaks" are popular (or were when I last lived there decades ago). Real squid, real squid taste, but somehow pasted together. Also, in the Pacific NW and Vancouver, oyster burgers are around a lot. Delightful taste. Is this all "meat glue"?

                                    1. re: Madrid

                                      I'm no squid expert but I think calamari steaks are produced for one of the bigger & tougher less desirable species. The best species for culinary applications Latin name is Loligo. The steaks I've eaten have been tenderized either mechanically, chemically or both. Never heard of the oyster burgers but I'd like to try them. "Meat Glue" that they used to use for scallops medallions was a component of beef blood (maybe plasma) if I remember correctly.

                                      1. re: zackly

                                        oh yes, the calamari steaks at least when i last had them seemed to be tenderized mechanically, they had machine-like marks on them that reminded me of the "cube steaks" of my child hood in NC, either purchased "cubed" or "cubed"at home by pounding with a small wooden cutting board. They tasted only of calamari and fresh, could be used in any number of dishes when you didn't have time to clean the calamari yourself. The oyster burgers tasted just like oysters. Grilled, of course, but very tender and juicy. Especially when eaten outdoors with a view of the water on Vancouver Island.

                                        Now I am going to have to look into to the meat glue stuff. Sounds horrifying, and I should just pay for the real thing when I want scallops.

                                    2. re: zackly

                                      I am ok w/imitation crab legs for certain applications. Some brands very bad & some brands ok. Have not seen scallops made of the same stuff. How are they....any scallop flavor.....moist inside or dry.....how do they brown?

                                      1. re: Tom34

                                        They have a mild scallop flavor, not the deliciously sweet flavor of freshly caught scallops. I don't think you'd notice any difference if you weren't terribly familiar with the real thing. I questioned them a few times before I concluded thus.
                                        I've only had them at restaurants in broiled and fried dishes and they looked fine. Actually, they aren't bad unless you expect true sea scallops.

                                        1. re: Tom34

                                          They are jusk Ok tasting, IMHO. Breaded & deep fried are the best way to prepare I think.The are sold breaded and unbreaded but I've never seen them in stores ,only in wholesale distributors & primatily in Asian wholesale seafood distributors.

                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                        I should have said the odd scallops were found in grilled, fried and baked seafood dishes at three different coastal restaurants known for seafood. No heavy sauces to camouflage. The scallops themselves were not off tasting.They were not 'bad' bland actually but they weren't local sea scallops, either.
                        I'm not going to name the establishments because one meal isn't enough to slam a place. Each was an independent restaurant. And, I'll return to order lobster or fried clams. Lobster if the price is right and fried clams because I don't cook them at home. Sometimes a fisherman's platter hits the spot simply because of the variety.
                        Yes, I love Nantucket scallops best of all, too, but they are out of season. When I was young, a fish market would offer local small bay scallops and large sea scallops all year long. I remember when crabmeat was a cheap substitute for lobster and when lobster meat was $4.00/lb.
                        I appreciate all the responses. Thank you.

                      3. With the price of scallops thee days, be happy they cost a lot more than shrimp per pound. A U/10 (jumbo) dry scallop went over $20.00 a lb. wholesale in NJ this week. That being said there are cheaper frozen South American scallops around or if they were small, bay scallops of Chinese origin.They probably were soaked. Little known fact:
                        There are two types of dry scallops
                        1-actual Dry Scallops with no added sodium tripoly-phosdphate (very rare these days)
                        2-legally dry scallops, with some undeclared STP. Domestic scallopers are allowed to soak scallops in STP & water until their typical water content is achieved. That means if a scallop is processed in New Bedford, MA for example and the "drip loss" is 6% the processor is allowed to add that much water back WITHOUT HAVING TO DECLARE THE STP ON THE INGREDIENT LABEL. So if you're buying scallops and see a lot of skim milk looking liquid in the pan, they've been soaked.That's what your typical dry scallop is these days.

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: zackly

                          That's really interesting. I've bought dry scallops which have not caramelized well. May wait until November, get my fix for Nantucket scallops and forget about them.

                            1. re: zackly

                              Peconics for me, but I only get them from the fisherman himself or the one or two fish stores that I trust. Too precious to fry, but sauté is OK. Raw is fine too!

                          1. re: zackly

                            That's what alerted me in the first place. I watch the retail price of seafood. This past winter, there wasn't much of a discrepancy between Nantucket and Sea Scallops.

                            1. re: zackly

                              Hey Zackly,

                              Been out of wholesale seafood for years so I am VERY dated.

                              What are the refresh Japanese North Hokkaido Dry U10 Scallops at Restaurant Depot . Currently 10 lb case price @ $13.95 lb.

                              1. re: Tom34

                                North Hokkaido scallops are beautiful, low moisture sea scallops. Unfortunately, most are imported here frozen chemical free then processed with phosphates to add water, hence becoming wet scallops.The business kinda went away when they re-opened the Georges Bank in the N. Atlantic to scallop fishing maybe 10 years ago. At that point it wasn't economically feasible to process them because domestic and Canadian scallops got so cheap. Now that sea scallops are crazy high again I guess it's a viable business to import them.Depending on how much water has been added they could be fine unless you're looking to carmelize them in a saute pan. They might be too wet.

                                1. re: zackly

                                  Thanks for the info.......they are advertised as dry but like you say, to what degree. U10 @ $13.95 seems pretty good, maybe too good!

                                  Whats driving the Scallop & Shrimp prices so high? Even farm raised shrimp look to be up a good 25%.

                                  1. re: Tom34

                                    like you I've been away from the business for a few years so I can only speculate on why. I talked to my buddy who has a wholesale seafood business that services the Jersey Shore and he said he paid $20.00 for U/10 dry scallops this week.The simplistic answer is there is increased demand (Mother's Day,upcoming Beach season) and the supply is limited. The problem with exportable seafood is both Europe & Asia are willing to pay more for seafood than America is so we're the third market.

                                    1. re: zackly

                                      I remember John Larson at Viking Village Barnegat Light NJ used to sell 40 lb bags of dry scallops his boats brought in that day for $5.00 lb. in the 1980's. Off the boat fresh Tuna & Sword from his long liners were also priced right to flip quick.

                                      The European & Asian market demand is probably a big factor these days. They have been taking the majority of our "high" prime beef for years.

                                      Paying $20.00 lb wholesale your buddy is probably making next to nothing and supplying them as a convenience to loyal customers. Hopefully he is making it up elsewhere.

                                      1. re: Tom34

                                        That's exactly right. He needs to have scallops for his customers that want them. He is a primary seafood supplier to Long Beach Island and does 80% of his sales between Memorial Day & Labor Day but stays open all year just to accommodate his restaurant customers.

                                        1. re: Tom34

                                          >> $5.00 lb. in the 1980's

                                          FYI, that's about $10-12/lb in 2014 dollars.

                                          1. re: emannths

                                            Yes, and $10.00 to $12.00 lb for U10 DRY scallops is where the price was until just recently, not $20.00 lb like this season.

                                            8 pc scallop meal = $16.00 scallop cost..... Add in a high quality soup/salad & high quality sides to match the quality of the scallops and your at a min $20.00 food cost. Apply the golden 30% max food cost rule and you have $67.00 menu cost. Good luck with that at the majority of the Jersey Shore.

                                            1. re: Tom34

                                              Depends on the source. Current price on 10-20 count wild dry sea scallops from Japan is around $10 per pound. so an 8 scallop meal = $3-$8 cost. of course these are randoms. Strictly U10 are running $13 per pound so that would be a $10 plate cost.

                                2. re: zackly

                                  wow, thanks so much for taking the time to explain all this specialized info; really really helpful.