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