Scallops are bi-valve mollusks, belonging to the Pectinidae family, and are available in all the oceans in the world. They also make a very popular, if a little expensive, seafood ingredient. Many people with an artistic eye or on a collector's whim gather scallops because of their colorful and exquisite shells, shaped like a fan or a seashell with radially spread ridges. Inside these shells is firm white-colored flesh that may or may not be edible.
Scallops have a fairly developed adductor muscle that allows them to swim effectively as opposed to oysters and mussels. They swim by opening up their shells then closing them rapidly thereafter and repeating this motion. It is also a helpful defensive mechanism so they can escape from predators. They have around a hundred reflector eyes lined along the edge of its shell, with complex retinas that are sensitive to sudden darkness and light, which allows them to be able to detect sudden motion. For the most part, scallops live on themselves and eat plankton. There are others that attach themselves to substrates and live dependently.
Scallops may be bought with or without their shells. They may be packed with additives and salted or may be without any additives, but if you are to keep them for a long time, the processed ones, or the ones that are “wet packed” are better, as they last longer. "Bay scallops", "rock scallops" or "sea scallops" are the kinds of scallops found in the market. The bay scallops are mostly preferred for soups and stews and not dishes that mainly focus on scallops. Sea scallops are the restaurant-standard scallops that are often used in dishes that have them as the core ingredient. Rock scallops are the easiest to catch as they tether themselves to rocks, hence the name.
Scallops in Food
Even people, who can't really tolerate fish, like scallops because they don't have a fish-like taste and they aren't filled with tiny fish-bones that get stuck in the mouth. Scallops have a tender flesh with a delicate, mildly sweet taste that pleases most. The adductor muscle makes the white flesh that people recognize as "scallops", whereas its roe is called "coral", which is tenderer and may be white or red. When cooking scallops, one should make sure that they are cooked for a short time, to maintain the texture and delectable taste. They can be simply pan-fried, grilled gently or steamed. Since Japanese foods are dominated by seafood, scallops are a common ingredient for them but other cuisines also incorporate scallops seamlessly.
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