In Japan, live and raw abalones are used in awabi sushi, or served steamed, salted, boiled, chopped, or simmered in soy sauce. Salted, fermented abalone entrails are the main component of tottsuru, a local dish from Honshū. Tottsuru is mainly enjoyed with sake.
There are two basic ways they are enjoyed. The first is raw, live and extra cold. When consumed raw, the aromas of the sea are enjoyed along with a very crunchy flavor. The sound of the crunch is considered a compliment.
The second way is grilled. They are usually grilled in their shell with a dash of rice wine, and soy sauce to be left alone to cook in their own juices. It becomes very soft and chewy when it is cooked. The strong ocean scents are lost, but a meatier flavor is achieved.
In Edo style sushi, the abalone were quickly steamed with rice wine to prevent the flavors to be bled out due to water loss when grilled. This seal the flavors inside as much as possible for a small piece of nigiri.
The black abalone is the most expensive type in the markets. Many less expensive Australian Victoria abalone (Haliotis conicopora) are seen in the market recently. The Victoria abalone is brown in color and much softer compared to the white and turgid black abalone, but some chefs are starting to like the soft raw texture as well.
The name awabi is believed to come from the term awanumi, or a body that does not match, which describes how it is a single shell clam. Awanumi became awami and then awabi.