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Scallops, dashi, and tooling around Central Market

A while back, I was complaining that I couldn’t find any kombu on Hong Kong island. I’m sure it exists, but at the time of my search, I was perhaps too lazy or inept to actually find it. As luck would have it, e_ting was kind enough to read my panicked tweet and brought some back with her after a skiing trip in Japan. I have some amazing friends.

The kombu was for a ramen recipe intended to follow Tom’s post about Mist. If you check our archives, you’ll quickly realise that the recipe never made it. Instead the kombu sat in my cupboard for several weeks now. Since I’m forcing myself back into the kitchen, I thought it might be a good time to consider it again. So something with dashi would be for supper.

Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Dashi Puree, Bacon, and Chives

Along with making dashi, I decided to try Central Market for its seafood.  I can say that I was a late bloomer when it came to embracing the wet markets here. I’ve now shopped in several on the island, and Central is one of my favourites in Hong Kong. The quality of the produce is fantastic and the prices are a fraction of what you would spend at the supermarket. But what I love most about the wet markets is the atmosphere. It’s buzzy and there’s a level of energy that you don’t get at a grocery store. I’ve even made Central Market part of my regular route to yoga class just so I can see what it’s like at different times of the day -from early morning to late at night.

So I purchased live scallops from Yui Fat on the corner of Gage and Graham Street. The scallops were relaxing in a makeshift styrofoam holding tank circulated with fresh water. I didn’t know that scallops were so active, until I saw one shoot across one corner of the tank to the other. I asked for six, and then watched the woman open each one and remove a dark, tube-like organ which I assumed to be the digestive tract. A quick scrape all around, and there they were -fresh and gleaming in their shells. For only $40 HKD.

scallops raw

It’s common for scallops to be served along some sort of puree. And since I’m working with my cooking training wheels right now, I thought I’d stick with a sure thing when creating a recipe. For the puree, I first thought about beans, but then decided on cauliflower. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Yes, it’s an obvious, “chefy” choice. It used to be a low rent vegetable, and now people are bringing it back to the forefront. It’s a cop-out, I know, but I like cauliflower, I really do. So how do you jazz it up? Well, that brings me back to the dashi. It’s always more interesting to cook veg in broth versus water, so why not dashi for cauliflower? This has probably been done before and is coming from some subconscious recall of another dish I’ve had, but no matter…you have to try everything.

The key for good dashi is to have good ingredients. Never boil, just bring kombu and dried fish to a low simmer. Speaking of dried fish, I had purchased some kachiri for which I am still trying to Google more information. A very tiny, salted, dried fish, I wouldn’t think kachiri are used exclusively for making dashi. Most recipes call for dried sardines, but I thought these guys might be quite suitable. I let the two ingredients infuse on low heat for 20-30 minutes, then turned off the heat and threw in a generous amount of bonito flakes.

dashi

I strained the stock and cooked it with a head of cauliflower until very tender. Next, I pureed the cooked cauliflower with a little of the leftover dashi and some salt.

cauliflower dashi puree

I have to say, I think cauliflower dashi puree is a winner. I could see this paired with alot of other things. The rest of the recipe you already know how to do. Cook diced bacon until crispy. Finely chop chives. Saute seasoned scallops in a hot pan for a few minutes with butter. Plate.

6 Comments

  1. that is a use for kombu i would never have thought of – fantastic! I think kachiri is what we can ‘baak faan yu” in Canto, literally means “white rice fish” coz they’re small like grains of rice. They’re deep fried sometimes and mixed in with fried peanuts for nibbles, and are pretty common in omeletes/scrambled eggs at home

  2. Tess

    Excellent idea! As someone who can easily eat a monster head of cauliflower in one sitting, I’m always jazzed to hear new ways of using it- and it ain’t cauliflower’s fault if it’s chefy-hot right now! Maybe I’ll try something with miso instead of dashi…

  3. Nice idea with the cauliflower – it’s usually the one thing left mouldering in the fridge as inspiration runs dry. Those wet markets sound fantastic, shopping in places like that is so much more fun than fluorescent supermarkets.

  4. Great post and photos… Might very well make this for dinner tomorrow! I just did a smoked paprika & purple carrot puree. The colour is absolutely unbelievably rich. Deep, luscious purple to go with any fish, really.

  5. Very nice looking dish and I like your combination of flavours, which will definitely work together seamlessly! It’s pure coincidence, but I am also doing a Scallops Dish soon as well (in fact, I’ve already done a trial run). Might blog about it when I get around to making it again but with my final refined formula. I am using different ingredients altogether, but I think the final look of the dish will be similar nevertheless! :P

  6. Gawd, I want to come to your house for dinner.

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