My wife and I purchased a big box of some lovely frozen scallops over the Christmas holidays. They are very large indeed (and we have only eaten a few so far) so I thought I might use some in a fairly simple but tasty stir-fry dish using snow-peas and a bit of the Chinese Black Fungus I featured in a Foodstuffs post not long ago. The dish I came up with is generally Chinese in spirit but I departed from traditional methods and briefly grilled the scallops before adding them to the wok…
- 6 – 8 large Scallops (use the largest you can find);
- 1 generous handful of Snow-peas;
- 1/2 – 1 cup reconstituted Chinese Black Fungus (see note below);
- 2 slices of Ginger, thinly shredded;
- 3 tbsp. Rice Wine;
- 2 tbsp. Light Soy sauce;
- 1 tsp. Sugar;
- ½ cup Chicken Stock;
- 1 tsp. Cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp. Water;
There are two types of Black Fungus, the ‘Tree ear’ variety and the ‘Cloud ear’ variety. I am using the latter but either can be used. It is a bit difficult to specify required amounts of the dry fungus but 3 or 4 large pieces of the cloud ear type will generally be sufficient. Just reconstitute enough of the dry product by soaking it in water so that you have about a half to one cup of the refreshed result when loosely packed.
First, slice your scallops crosswise into three or four pieces (depending on the size). Mix one tablespoon of the soy sauce with the sugar and the rice wine and marinate the scallops in this for an hour or so.
Mix the stock with the remaining soy sauce and the cornstarch solution and set this aside for the time being.
To prepare the snow peas, you need to pull away the fibrous strings along the edges. This is not quite as critical as with the larger snap peas (where the strings can be quite tough indeed), but it is still worth the effort here.
The next step is optional, but the dish is much improved if you blanch the peas in boiling salted water for a minute or so and then plunge them into cold water to arrest the cooking. As you can see in the above picture, the blanched peas in the bowl have a lovely bright green color as compared to the ones to the side and they will cook to a nice crisp tender after only a few seconds in the wok. If you like, you can also add a pinch of baking soda to the blanching water (as I did) as this also improves the color.
Your last preparation step is to trim the fungus. These will have some tough, woody parts near the stem so cut these away and slice the remainder as you see above.
The next part is not especially traditional but a pre-grilling does a great job on adding flavor to the scallops. It would be nice to do this over an open flame grill but that is not an option for me so I am doing it in a ridged grill pan. However you do it, the idea is to quickly sear the scallop slices and get a bit of caramelization on the outside while leaving them tender in the center. Do the pieces in batches and then transfer to a bowl for the time being.
For the final cooking, heat a tablespoon or two of oil in your wok over high flame and then quickly sauté the ginger just long enough for it to give up its aroma. Add the snow peas and the fungus and stir a minute longer until all is hot.
Finally, add the scallops and toss gently for a moment or so and then add the sauce mixture. Allow it to bubble and thicken, stirring once or twice, and then plate and serve immediately.
Well, my wife said this dish was awesome and she could eat the whole thing again. I very much enjoyed it myself but I was a little torn over the grilled scallops. The taste was excellent, and very much enhanced by the browning from the grill but, in the past, when I have made this dish without the pre-grilling, the pristine white of the scallop flesh really looked pretty with the green and brown of the peas and fungus. Still, I guess the taste versus appearance trade-off was worth it on the whole…