You’ve Never Heard of This Indigenous Mexican Shellfish, but You Definitely Want to Try It

Say hello to callo de hacha, your new seafood obsession

If you’ve never heard of callo de hacha, you’re not alone. It wasn’t until a few years ago that the local shellfish—native to the Sea of Cortez off Baja California—became available for import into the U.S. Inside each ax-head-shaped shell (hacha means “hatchet” in Spanish) sits a sweet, tender scallop about the size of a silver dollar, a prized ingredient along Mexico’s western coastline.

At Holbox, Gilberto Cetina Jr.’s Yucatán-inspired seafood counter at Mercado La Paloma south of downtown, thin slices of callo de hacha are bathed in a punchy sauce made of puréed serrano chiles, cilantro, lime, and salt—a classic take on the mariscos dish aguachile verde. Cetina cures the scallops for no more than a minute or two before plating to preserve their silky texture, then adds a mound of diced avocado and red onion. Scooping it up with crispy tostadas, you can understand why the luscious shellfish enjoys a following south of the border.

Cetina—who also offers Baja-sourced clams at Holbox—has become a major proponent of fresh Mexican seafood, enlisting chefs like Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos and Carlos Salgado of Taco María to join the cause. “The more demand increases,” says Cetina, “the better the access to quality product.”

RELATED: It’s Time for L.A’s Godfather of Mexican Seafood to Get His Due