Every now and then you get to taste something really special. It is one thing to eat seafood hundreds of miles away from its origin and it is another thing to eat it at its origin the same day it came out of the ocean. The callo de hacha scallops in Bahia Kino, Sonora are one of the best food experiences in a country famous for great culinary experiences.
Bahía Kino, Sonora
The area that is known as Bahía Kino is a blip on the map of the Sea of Cortez. It’s a six-hour drive from Tucson and an hour and a half directly west of Hermosillo, Sonora. Every year, thousands of snowbirds migrate down Interstate 15 on their way to warmer climates. I highly recommend detouring to Bahía Kino to experience the fresh seafood locally sourced in the Sea of Cortez.
YouTube has a bunch of videos about famous chefs and Mexican food vloggers talking shop with the folks operating the seafood bars. After watching the Nico Mejía video I was set on visiting Bahía Kino. It wasn’t that big of a deal to add a few hours onto an already long road trip and the experience is well worth it.
Twenty years ago, I worked in a restaurant that sold a plate of four medium-sized Atlantic diver scallops for $30 dollars, USD. First, I can only imagine what they cost now. Second, I prefer eating raw seafood that is fresh and not frozen.
Are Callo de Hachas Scallops?
Is a callo de hacha the same thing as a scallop? Those are both general terms and Mexican callo de hacha is different from the diver scallops sourced in the North Atlantic and sold frozen to restaurants across the United States. A scallop is a general term for a bivalve mollusk and they are found all over the world. The cold water variety and the warm water variety look and taste different. If you haven’t eaten live, Mexican callo de hacha fresh out of the water in Bahía Kino, you should give it a try
The name callo de hacha comes from the shape of the shell. There are actually two different types of callos: hacha and riñón. The callo de riñón costs about twice what the callo de hacha costs according to the guys at Mariscos Terry next to the pier in Old Bahía Kino. There is also a beautiful selection of clams and oysters but the callos are the real treat.
There was a time when callo de hacha could be found at low tide or even at 20 meters deep. Divers harvest the wild mollusks that grow like roots into the seafloor. These divers don’t use tanks but with a surface-supplied breathing apparatus. Diving for callos is dangerous work.
When you get to Mariscos Terry or La Guera you will see one of the most beautiful selections of live shells that you will ever see. The pata de mula is opening a little bit and closes again after being hit with the knife. Everything is opened and cleaned in front of you. It’s almost like taking a biology class as they dissect a mollusk to isolate the tasty parts. I enjoy watching sushi chefs prepare food but these guys are on another level.
Interestingly, healthy callo de hacha has a small shrimp that lives inside the shell and keeps it clean in a symbiotic relationship. Most of the callo is thrown out including the digestive system. What you eat is the contractor muscle that opens and closes the shell.
In Bahía Kino, seafood is served in its own shell. You can taste individual items or blend them all together into one huge mixed plate (shell). They pour some clamato, lime, chile, salt, and pepper into the mix and dive in. There are probably 10 different types of spicy salsas sitting on the table for you to choose from. I went for a blend of the Huichol salsa and an orange habanero, and I’d do it again.
The drive down the 15 from Nogales to Puerto Vallarta or the Riviera Nayarit can be a lot of fun if you make the right pit stops. Eating callo de hacha scallops in Bahía Kino is a world-class culinary experience that you should make some time for. You are not going to be able to experience these gems in many other parts of the world.