The Recipe

Ken Hom’s Stir-Fried Peppers with Scallops

This month’s recipe for Wok Wednesdays is Ken Hom’s Stir-Fried Peppers and Scallops from “The Breath of a Wok.” We are only cooking one recipe in December because it’s such a busy time and this is a special dish that’s extra festive for the holidays.

Ken Hom’s Stir-Fried Peppers and Scallops

This past spring, a friend recommended I try Downeast Dayboat scallops. In New York I’ve been satisfied with the quality of scallops that I buy at the farmer’s market and local gourmet stores, so I didn’t understand why I should go to the trouble of ordering scallops that require being fedexed from Maine. I was skeptical as I placed my first order. Little did I know that I was in for a delicious surprise.

I was blown away by the quality. First I sampled a raw scallop that was crazy good—the pristine freshness rivaled the best sushi I’ve ever eaten.  I had to refrain myself from devouring all the scallops! Whether stir-fried, pan-fried or poached, the scallops were exceptionally flavorful—truly the finest I’ve ever enjoyed. Apparently, 95% of commercial scallops sit on a boat, buried in ice for more than a week before being shipped to markets. The scallops absorb the melted ice water which dilutes their flavor and diminishes the texture. In contrast the Downeast Dayboat scallops are shipped within 24 hours of being caught so they remain plump, succulent and sweet. I discovered these scallops in April just as the Maine season was coming to a close. Spoiled by the outstanding quality I haven’t wanted to eat any other scallops since then. For months I’ve been patiently waiting to fire up my wok and enjoy a new season of stir-fried scallops!

The minimum Downeast Dayboat scallop order is 2 pounds and the price per pound is $29 plus the shipping fee. I know that’s a lot of money but honestly, it’s totally worth it. Once I tasted these scallops I can never go back to what I used to buy. Togue Brawn, the owner of Downeast Dayboat is kindly offering Wok Wednesdays members a special 10% discount. Use the code WOK to receive the savings. Place your order by Sunday night and the scallops will be shipped on tues/wed and you’ll receive them by wed/thurs/fri. It also feels great to support a small sustainable fishing business. Go to the website to read about the fishermen.

When the scallops arrive you’ve got a few days to eat them. Each package has the name of the fishermen, the name of his boat, the area where the scallops were harvested and the harvest date. Last April, I experimented with freezing the second bag. When I was ready to cook the scallops in May, I put the frozen bag in the fridge and within 20 hours they were completely defrosted and the quality had not diminished.

If you’re looking for a great present for the foodie in your life Downeast Dayboat scallops are an outrageously luxurious present (send an email gift card!). More importantly, don’t forget to treat yourself to the best tasting scallops! Trust me, you won’t regret it.

How it's done

Ken Hom’s Stir-Fried Peppers with Scallops

The first step of the recipe is to rinse the scallops under cold water, removing any visible bits of shell or grit and set on several sheets of paper towels. However, according to Togue, Downeast Dayboat scallops should not be rinsed. “When you’re buying scallops from who-knows-where, you want to wash them off, but these have gone directly from the boat to the bag with only my gloved hands touching them, so they’re totally pure. I’m a bit worried that washing them in fresh water, even briefly, will result in them picking up moisture.”

The recipe calls for bean sauce which you can substitute with 1 1/2 teaspoons miso paste mixed with 1 teaspoon of water. Ken Hom likes to use peanut and olive oil. Make sure the olive oil is not extra-virgin which is a low-smoking point oil that is not meant for stir-frying. I prefer to use 2 tablespoons of peanut oil and skip the olive oil. For a little heat, add a squirt of sriracha sauce with the rice wine but without the spiciness you can better appreciate the scallops.

1 pound fresh sea scallops, muscle tabs removed
2 tablespoons Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons bean sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1 small green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares

  1. Halve any large scallops horizontally to match the size of the other scallops. In a small bowl combine the rice wine, soy sauce, bean sauce, sugar, and sesame oil.
  2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the peanut oil, add the scallops, and pan-fry 1 minute on each side. Transfer to a plate. Swirl in the olive oil. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the peppers and stir-fry 2 minutes. Return the scallops with any juices that have accumulated on the plate to the wok. Stir the rice wine mixture, swirl it into the wok, bring to a boil and stir-fry until the scallops are just cooked, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Serves 4 as part of a multi course meal.

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