Category: Kai (shellfish). Season: year round, best in the summer time or winter depending on the provenance and varietal. Although often farmed, wild hotate are far superior in texture and flavor.
The best hotate come from cold waters; they are especially tasty when sourced from the Sea of Okhotsk north of Hokkaido. They take a minimum of three years to mature, and are best when at least four years old and over four inches in length. The large ligaments are butterflied into thick pieces and molded onto sushi and provide a sweet flavor and pleasant, soft eating texture.
The traditional Edo-mae style preparation for hotategai involves simmering the shellfish in sake or soy sauce, but these days it is often served raw, with only a slight bit of wasabi as accompagnement.