If you love sushi and you haven’t had a taste of the inimitable hotategai sushi, then you are missing out on something really special. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that this is my favorite kind of sushi, and probably my family’s favorite sushi as well. It is, at least, the most requested among the different kinds of sushi my kids love.

Not only does it taste amazing but the farmed ones are also sustainable and eco-friendly. It is something you should absolutely try if you’re looking for something new and unusual. Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to hotategai sushi.

What is hotategai?

For much of this article, I will be using the word “hotategai,” so it is important to find out what it means before we go any further. Hotategai basically means Japanese scallop or jumbo scallops.

However, hotate-gai (帆立貝) as a Japanese word can also mean self-raising calm. This relates to scallop in the sense that at the point when scallop flaps their shells open and shut, moving themselves through water, it looks a sail being raised. In other words, “hotategai” describes the movement of the scallop.

It is among the best type of shellfish to ocean food lovers and it is extremely uncommon to see sushi-ya that does not offer hotategai. They are of several species worldwide and come in various sizes.

In Japan, hotategai flourish in chilly northern waters. Hokkaido and Aomori are celebrated for their scallops. It might interest you to know that all scallops in the Japanese market are monetarily or commercially cultivated, and the same goes for at least half of the scallops utilized in the US. The other half are still normally dredged legitimately from the untamed sea, up and down the northern scope of the two coasts.

However they are raised, the scallops may still be of different species depending on how close you are to the Atlantic or Pacific and your sushi-ya’s seafood supplier. As a general rule, the firmer and the sweeter the meat, the farther north the scallops come from.

Unlike other shell-fish, scallops don’t lie idle, trusting that the current will bring them supper. They move around, they frolic. Hotategai hastens about, fluttering their shells to fly here and thither so cheerfully that if you see them in their characteristic home you would hate to eat them. But let’s not focus on that!

Scallop sushi – Hotate

Raw scallop sushi, commonly known as hotate in Japanese, is unlike any sushi you’ve ever tasted. On most occasions it is considered a luxury item in most sushi restaurants. You are likely to see most fishermen serving ten or less in a pound in a pack of dry sea scallops dug from the bottom of the ocean.

As for me though, I prefer to use bay scallops, usually harvested from the west coast of Florida somewhere around the Crystal River. The area is also rich with a substantial amount of sea-grass in pristine water, which happens to be the perfecting thriving ground for scallops.

However, since bay scallops are a little bit smaller compared to the sea or ocean scallops, it is almost impossible to make them into the normal hotategai nigiri. So, I just prefer to slice them into little pieces and make the good old Gunkan style sushi. This enables the nori (seaweed) to act as an eatable cup that properly supports the scallop so it doesn’t slip off.

What part of the hotategai is edible?

All parts of the jumbo scallop are edible. The roe and the adductor muscle are the only parts that you want to eat though. The other parts like the digestive glands and gills have little or value and are often thrown away. In China, chefs have a special way of preparing it by steaming the scallops on the half shell with the roe.

Dry and wet hotategai

Not everyone has the time and energy to start catching scallops, so they’re generally bought from the people that do! Here we get into the basic differences between the wet and dry scallop.

The dry scallop, which happens to be the best quality as it has no additives, is usually the one that is not treated with any chemicals. The wet scallop, on the other hand, is usually treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP), which is an additive normally used to add water weight to seafood, most especially shrimps.

However, differentiating between the two should not be something to worry about as their differences are very noticeable. For wet scallops, they have a white color and are always soaking in its liquid, while the naturally dry kind has a light creamy color somewhat close to orange and does not soak in its liquid.

Also, wet scallop tends to produce an unusual amount of liquid when it’s being cooked. If you see a whitish liquid when they are pan seared, nine out of ten times those scallops were STP treated. Although the health aspect of consuming STP treated seafood is debatable, the real question is, why on earth should I spend extra money on artificial weight?

Guide to buying scallops

Dry scallops

  • Taste sweet and savory
  • Creamy in color
  • Don’t soak in its liquid
  • More expensive

Wet scallop

  • Less savory taste
  • White in color
  • Soaks in its liquid
  • Sweats heavily when cooked
  • Less expensive

Hotategai sushi recipe

You’re looking for a scallop sushi recipe, and there’s tons you can try, tons of easy and complex ways to make them. Luckily, the recipe below is a bit more on the easy side.

To prepare you will need the following ingredients:

  • 6 sea scallops (preferably dry)
  • 1 cup of sushi rice
  • Wasabi
  • Daikon sprouts (for garnish)

While for the sushi rice you will need:


Over high heat, sauté your pan until all beads of water have evaporated. Coat the bottom of the pan with the vegetable oil. Once that is done, carefully add the scallops and sear for at least one minute until a golden-brown color appears on both sides. Ensure they are not overcooked. Turn off the heat and remove the scallops from the pan and slice horizontally.

For the second step, with wet hands pick up ball-shaped sized of the sushi rice and mold gently in your right hand to form rectangular-shaped rice with rounded edges. While that is being done, apply a little bit of pressure to the rice so it forms a strong base for the scallops.

Top the rectangular-shaped piece of rice with a small amount of wasabi and carefully top it off with a sliced piece of scallop or hotategai. Finally, garnish with daikon sprouts, serve and enjoy.

For the rice, simply boil in a pot of water after washing it. Add the rest of the ingredients and allow to cook for about 30-35 minutes.


Hotategai sushi is one of the best kinds of sushi I’ve ever had, and if you haven’t noticed by now, it’s quite easy to prepare. So, go get your ingredients, make your very own hotategai sushi and enjoy!


Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

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