Learn about the following species groups (including their most common members, as well as purchasing, storage and cooking information), or select a specific species from the species list on the right.
A symbol of many things, from pilgrims on their way to the shrine of St James at Santiago de Compostela in Spain, to a multinational oil refinery, and found in all the world’s oceans, the scallop shell is perhaps the definitive shell shape. European names for this prized bivalve often reflect its association with St James, such as the German ‘Jakobsmuschel’ and French ‘Coquille St. Jacques’. The scallop is an active swimmer, propelling itself through the water by using its adductor muscle to open and close its shell; it is this well developed adductor muscle that provides such a tasty culinary morsel, along with its stronger-tasting roe (the reproductive organ). Scallops are hermaphrodites, changing gender throughout their lives, with orange roe indicating females and white roe, males.
There are around 350 species of Scallops (members of the Pectinidae family) worldwide, but Australia only has two main commercial species:
Commercial Scallops (Pecten fumatus), also known as Tasmanian, king or sea scallops, have creamy coloured flesh and are generally sold with their orange roe attached. Their shells are oval and the flat, pale pinky-red top shell has ridges radiating out from the hinge and a sculptured (‘scalloped’) outer edge, the classic scallop shell design. Commercial Scallops are available both farmed and wild-caught, harvested, by diving or ‘mud dredges’, mainly off Tasmania and Victoria with smaller quantities off Jervis Bay (NSW) and Coffin Bay and Spencer Gulf (SA), they occur south from Torquay (Qld) to Shark Bay (WA) and are endemic to Australia. Farmed Commercial Scallops are available year round, with wild mainly available from September to December.
Saucer Scallops (Amusium species), also known as Queensland, white or mud scallops (and moon scallops in Asia), have a firmer white flesh and are generally sold roe off, often still attached to the half shell. Their shells are almost round and the top shell is distinctively smooth and flat with concentric reddish-brown, circular bands. Two species of Saucer Scallops are sold in Australia: Ballot’s (Amusium balloti) and the smaller Northern (Amusium pleuronectes). Saucer Scallops occur around most of the Australian coast, except along the southern coast from Esperance (WA) to Sydney, and are wild-caught. Ballot’s Saucer Scallops are trawled mainly off Queensland (north of Torquay), with some coming from Shark Bay and southwestern WA, and are available from January to October. Northern Saucer Scallops are a bycatch of coastal trawling (mainly for Prawns) and are mostly exported to South East Asia and the USA. Other Scallops occasionally seen around Australia include:
Doughboy Scallop (Mimachlamys asperrima, also called Chlamys asperrima) also known as sponge Scallops, are found off the southern coast and caught in Bass Strait, Jervis Bay and South Australia along with Commercial Scallops.
Queen Scallop (Equichlamys bifrons also called Chlamys bifrons) are large Scallops (up to 15cm) found in southern waters (NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and SA). The Sydney market sees some product from SA.
Fan Scallop (Annachlamys flabellata), found on sandy bottoms in northern Australia and harvested mainly by recreational fishermen, occur throughout the western Pacific Ocean from Indonesia to New Caledonia.
One of the few bivalves not generally sold live, Scallops are usually sold as meat (roe-on for Commercial and roe-off for Saucer) by weight, or on the half shell by the piece. The meat of both types averages 13g per piece. Look for firm, intact, lustrous flesh and shells, with a pleasant fresh sea smell. Raw Scallop meat should be translucent and slightly ‘sticky’ indicating that it is ‘dry’ and hasn’t been frozen or stored in water; scallop meat is sponge-like and will quickly absorb any water it comes into contact with, turning opaque. The flesh of Saucer Scallops is whiter than that of Commercial Scallops, which is more of an orangey-beige. If buying live Scallops, shells should be closed or close when tapped or gently squeezed.
Place scallop meat on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or store in an airtight freezer bag or plastic container and freeze for up to 3 months below -18ºC. Live scallops should be consumed as soon as possible after purchase; store in a container, covered with damp paper or cloth, in the warmest part of the refrigerator, usually the crisper (optimum 5ºC), ensuring that the covering remains damp.
Cooking & Serving
Scallops are popular, as they require virtually no preparation beyond trimming off the dark vein running along the side of the meat. They have a rich flavour, low oiliness and moist, medium-firm flesh (with Saucer tending to be firmer than Commercial). They can be steamed, poached, deep-fried, pan-fried, stir-fried, baked, grilled, barbecued, or eaten raw (if sashimi grade), but always require minimal cooking, even less than most other seafood. It’s always better to undercook, rather than overcook them, leaving the centre still translucent, as they will continue to cook in the residual heat once they are removed from the pan. Perfectly cooked, they are sweet and succulent with a gentle firmness, overcooked they are shrunken, tough and tasteless. Sear them over a high heat for just a few seconds on a BBQ or in a hot frying pan and serve with earthy flavours such as cauliflower puree; bake in small individual dishes with creamy sauce topped with gratinéed breadcrumbs, or steam on the half shell with ginger, green onions and a splash of soy sauce and sesame oil. Scallop roe adds a strong shellfish flavour to pâtés and soups. The oven-proof shells are popular vessels for presenting all sorts of foods, especially seafood of course.