Pearl Meat: This Luxury Seafood Has Australia Hooked

There is no dearth of exotic seafood all around the world, and the rarer they are to find, the more prized they are in the F&B world. Almas caviar, bluefin tuna, white truffle, baby eel, you name it. Not only are these sea creatures difficult to source, but their preparation demands a pair of skilled hands. Australia’s pearl meat is another exotic seafood item that is slowly emerging as a sensation.

What is pearl meat you ask? Right at the end of the oyster’s pearl-producing lives, the edible part of the oyster is called the pearl meat, It is simply rinsed in saltwater and frozen to be sold for commercial purposes. The meat is so rare and exclusive that only about six tons are sourced annually by leading chefs and restaurants around the world.  

Speaking of its taste and texture, it is translucent and about the size of a scallop medallion. The meat in itself is both firm and tender, and sweet and pleasant in taste, the overall taste of the flesh can be described as a cross between calamari and lobster. The flavour depends upon the preparation, and we think when you are working with such rare meat, why would you let any spice, herb or sauce to overpower, right?  

The delicacy has fans all across Asia and beyond, but did you know it comes with a slew of health benefits too? Being an incredible source of omega 3 fatty acids, pearl meat is good for your brain and heart. It is also a good source of protein, low in salt and contains zero trans-fat.  

So, how did pearl meat become this exotic seafood? To uncover the hype, it is important to understand a little history of the seafood. It goes without saying that rich pearls and jewels have attracted voyagers, pirates, and traders since time immemorial. The search for fertile pearl shell beds, brought several such people to the tiny coastal town of Broome in north Western Australia, somewhere in the mid-1800s. These new settlers included several Japanese, Chinese, Malay, and Filipinos. 

A lot of interest was shown by traders from Britain and North America. They would also set sail with excellent divers who would go deep in the ocean to fetch some exquisite pearls. The result was an upsurge of the cosmopolitan population in the tiny town of Broome, which was now filled with hotels and inns to provide shelter to the divers.  

And yes, the new settlements did affect the indigenous population of Broome too with countless men, women and children getting kidnapped, or being subjected to diving into the deep ends of the ocean. It was only in the year 1875 the Pearl Shell Fishery Regulation Act was introduced, to bring some order into the new booming industry, and things started to change for good. Many came to work on the luggers willingly to support their family financially, some even for the sake of adventure.  

It was not uncommon for them to sell some of the meat from the pearl shells, which they had dried and cured in secret for black to the merchants of Broome. Over the years, chefs realised the potential of pearl meat, and it became more and more exclusive in the market.  

To date, the process of obtaining pearl meat is the one to inspire awe and intrigue. An oyster is monitored right from its larval stage to the point it gives out the pearls. The most complicated part commences after the ‘seeding’. The ‘seeding’ process is where an irritant is planted inside the Oyster, prompting it to form a protective layer around it and then produce a pearl. And then after years, when the shell is to be discarded, you can procure your fleshy, firm meat from the oyster, barely a few grams that too.  Have you ever tried ‘pearl meat’, or would you be interested in trying the rare delicacy, do let us know?