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The Difference Between Variegated Scallops and Queen Scallops.

Zamburiñas o volandeiras

The sea provides us with a wide variety of delicious products of high gastronomic value. We will explain the difference between variegated scallops and queen scallops, their properties and how to prepare them to get the most of them.

How to distinguish between a variegated scallop and a queen scallop at a glance

Am I eating a variegated scallop or a queen scallop? If we don’t have both molluscs to compare in front of us it can be challenging to distinguish between them, as they have a similar appearance and texture. Both variegated scallops and queen scallops are bivalve molluscs and are typical in Galician cuisine.

To visually differentiate whether we are dealing with a variegated scallop or a queen scallop, we will look at their shells and their flesh.

Outside of Galicia (Spain), it’s quite common for variegated scallops to be called queen scallops because the former are scarce and challenging to obtain. Both are very tasty and constitute a healthy ingredient in the Mediterranean diet, worthy of the finest seafood restaurants.

The Shell

The variegated scallop has a more oval and irregular shape. The exterior color of its shell is darker, leaning towards greyish-violet. It is smaller in size compared to the queen scallop.

The queen scallop has a more rounded shape, and its exterior color is more pink, brown, or with an orange tone. Both shells are concave and more regular in shape.

Regarding the internal color of the shells, the variegated scallops shells are very light, almost white. The queen scallops shells are dark, grey with violet tones.

It’s essential to pay attention to the “ears“, which are the protrusions formed at the junction of the two shells. The ears of the queen scallop are unequal and asymmetrical, but both are visible at a glance.

In the case of the variegated scallop, they have only one “ear”, and the asymmetry is easily apparent with simple observation.

The Flesh

With the molluscs opened, it’s very easy to appreciate notable differences between queen scallops and variegated scallops. The variegated scallop has white flesh, whereas the queen scallop has a bright orange to red tongue or gonad.

Fresh Scallops
Seafood Restaurant Barcelona Chao Pescao

Other differences between the variegated scallop and the queen scallop

As you can see, there are visual differences, but there are also other distinctions to bear in mind.

Regarding the taste, the variegated scallop has delicate and somewhat sweet flesh, though it retains all the power of the sea. The queen scallop has a similar taste but somewhat more concentrated.

The Variegated Scallop (Zamburiña)

The variegated scallop is a scarcer product. It takes more time to reach the minimum size, which is established at 40 millimetres and it is a less profitable species. Collection occurs in seasonal periods and uses two main methods: handpicking (“bou de mano”) and scallop dredges (“bou de vara”). The variegated scallops extracted by hand have a higher value as they suffer fewer imperfections.

The authentic variegated scallops from the Rías Gallegas live along the coast, buried in the sand and at a maximum depth of 80 metres. They feed on plankton.

According to the classification by the Sea Ministry of the Galician regional government, there are two species of variegated scallops: Chlamys varia and Chlamys islandica, the latter is known as the iceland scallop.

The main fish markets that trade variegated scallops in Galicia (Spain) are Ferrol, Cambados, Barallobre, and Mugardos. In 2022, more than 30,000 kilogrammes of variegated scallops were collected.

The Queen Scallop (Volandeira)

The Aequipecten opercularis or queen scallop is a mollusc similar to the variegated scallop. It’s also a seasonal product that appears in the markets from November to March. Its name is derived from the fact that it seems to “fly” in the sea. The main fish markets for queen scallops are Rianxo, Cangas, Cambados, Ribeira, and Vilanova.

In 2022, more than 498,000 kilogrammes of queen scallops were collected.

fruits de mer Barcelona Chao Pescao
Seafood platter Chao Pescao (Barcelona-Spain)

Are variegated scallops and queen scallops prepared differently?

In truth, both molluscs are used in similar recipes. Both queen scallops and variegated scallops are highly regarded when cooked on the grill or over an open flame in their own shells.

It’s also common to steam them or bake them, seasoned with garlic and parsley. In Galician cuisine, they are part of stews and seafood rice dishes.

A very typical and traditional dish is the variegated scallop empanada, a savoury pie that can be prepared with queen scallops too.

They can also be consumed raw, but it’s essential to take special care to avoid intoxication and buy and eat them only at trusted establishments, such as a reputable seafood restaurant.

When it comes to pairing with wine, we recommend enjoying your queen scallops or variegated scallops with a dry Galician white wine that has a good mineral and saline note. Aged whites in oak barrels will provide a perfect complement to dishes prepared with these molluscs.

Now you already know about the properties of queen scallops and variegated scallops. But to consolidate this newfound culinary knowledge, what could be better than coming to Chao Pescao Seafood Restaurant to enjoy our seafood? On our fish and seafood menu, we offer you all the flavours of the sea straight from the fish market to the table.

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