Focus in on the delights of the kitchen and the table with ...

best final

This tasty explosion of color and flavor made me regret all the Wok Wednesdays I’ve been missing in the hurly-burly of the last few months. As always, focusing in on one recipe from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge by the amazing and brilliant Grace Young gave me knowledge, pleasure, and a superb dinner for my family and me. It was a busy weeknight, but since this dazzling dish reels in protein and vegetables and was served with plenty of rice, it was an all-in-one which fit in just fine on a busy Tuesday in winter-deciding-whether-to-surrender-to-spring NC evening.

Here in the very-well-supplied region known as The Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and environs), I could have obtained every ingredient except for the chili bean paste at my nearest supermarket or at the not-too-distant Whole Foods here in town. But since I decided to head for Li Ming Asian Market in order to purchase this key ingredient, I decided to look for the baby bok choy there as well. I found not only baby, but also itty-bitty-baby bok-choy, and that is what I got. Beautiful, delicious, delightful to handle and see and taste.


For the bean sauce issue, I found the one pictured in @Grace Young’s marvellous book, our text, but decided to go with the blue can, because it’s a brand I used back when I first started cooking Asian food, and because I love the logo and old-school style of the packaging. Both seemed quite similar in ingredients listed, and both are products of Taiwan. I will transfer the remaining sauce to a glass jar and keep it in the fridge, I think. Hmmm—need to ask Grace! Preserved salted soybean products like this were created to be kept at room temperature for long periods of time, so actually, it may be fine to keep out on the counter. I prefer that when it’s safe to do so, because the further away something is, the less likely I am to think of it and use it.



Prep for this dish was a bit different, as I have never stir-fried scallops before; in fact I have very seldom cooked them in any form at all. I love them, but don’t tend to order them or buy them due to both expense and lack of knowledge as to how best to prepare them. Glad to be nudged into Scallop World here. For this recipe, they were rinsed, patted dry, and then halved crosswise. This made them ‘go further’, giving an abundant looking dish. They cooked quite evenly and quickly as well.


Next step for me was preparing the garlic and the fresh ginger (mmmmmm, so aromatic, so beautiful, so tasty — I got a big supply this time, which will live out on the counter in the basket with its friends, garlic, shallots, limes and lemons, onions and fresh hot chilies).

herbs wok wed

I stirred together the seasonings in a small bowl: chili bean sauce, chicken broth, soy sauce and cornstarch, and measured out all the other ingredients so I was ready for action.

mise again

My scallops released a good bit of liquid—I may not have patted them dry enough, or I may have had heat wrong. This caused them to stew more than to develop a bit of a browned crusty texture which I had imagined they would do. But looking at the photograph, I realized that is not the deal with this preparation, and in fact, the finished dish was both gorgeous in colors, texture, and aroma, but completely delicious and satisfying as well. I would move a bit faster next time — the more times I cook a given stir-fry, the better it gets, because the better I get at my timing of that dish’s particular deal. I think this would be excellent with bay scallops as well, which would eliminate the halving of the scallops, and also bring down the cost. This was a glorious splurge, which I could see making with shrimp or chicken or tofu and mushrooms, adjusting the timing to the particular 3 242

Look for the recipe on page 154 – 155 of Grace’s must-have book, Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories.61JGuy0rznL

Join us in cooking from this book on WokWednesdays. Visit the blog, and check out the Facebook page as well. Happy cooking, happy eating!

About the Author
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of ten cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native,and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.
  1. Karen @ Karen's Kitchen Stories Reply

    It’s hard to find dry scallops. Most are treated with phosphates, thus the release of all of that liquid. It’s not you! Nice post!

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      Thank you, Karen. That’s good to know. Glad to be back in the Wok Wednesdays circle.

  2. bettyannq @Mango_Queen Reply

    Wow ! Your stir fried dish of chili scallops with the bok choy looks amazing! What a great combination of flavors. I can just smell the aroma from where I am here. Thanks for sharing, Nancie!

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      Betty, you are so kind. Wonderful dish, lots of sauce and flavor, with vivid colors and lots of crunch. We made it a one-dish meal, though it would be a fine centerpiece to an Asian meal, as it made a most generous quantity and could be stir-fried at the moment to go with an array of prepared ahead dishes. What’s amazing for me are your posts — that recent one with the banana bundt cake with chocolate icing? Mmmmmmmm.

  3. Cathleen Reply

    Beautiful! You did get a lot of the delicious sauce – wish I had more. I did get the sear, but I may have over-cooked them a bit. My husband thought they were fine, and he is the scallop lover. It took me a bit to get used to having the heat turned up high – the outcome of wok cooking is amazing.

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      I think my scallops releasing liquid is what yielded the sauce. Out of my control — I’d love to try it with the sear, so next batch, here I come! Since I cook lots of Thai food which you eat with spoon and rice on a plate, having lots of thin sauce to spoon over rice is a real plus. All good, right?

  4. Nancy Reply

    I’d love to try more of the recipes in the book, but I am really stumped over the chili bean sauce. I could only find this through Lee Kum Kee by way of Amazon where it is subtitled Toban Djan.

    Is this close enough to the chili bean sauce – laat dao zheung – described on page 36 of the book?

    If not, could someone send me info on how to order the real thing? I’m in northern Vermont and these things are not easy to come by.

    But surprisingly we do have dry scallops up here.

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      About the chili-bean, do you mean finding it, or which brand? It really is a wonderland; so many of those preserved soy bean condiments throughout Asian cuisines, and the varied ways an English-language name gets rendered on the label makes it confusing. But after trying a good number of members of this class of salty preserved soy bean pastes/goos/sauces, my call is that the differences are NOT huge, and that subsitutions work very well. Not always true, but in this category, that’s my take. BUT the thing I need to do is Ask Grace!

Leave a Reply