The daily question of "what's for dinner" is often answered with the help of a stroll through the supermarket. Not the regular supermarket, but good supermarkets. Like Asian supermarkets. These are the places you'll see items like snow pea leaves, or Thai basil, or a tongue. Like when I checked out H&Y Market in Ridgefield a while back. I saw some cow bones and that planted the seed for making pho. And then I used that broth to make an excellent fish dish.
Recently I found myself at King Fung, in River Edge, NJ. Surveying the produce aisle I noticed bright yellow chives, staring me in the face. I've never cooked these things, but I do know I love them in a dish I've had at Chengdu 23, in Wayne, NJ. The dish is very basic, and very elegant. In fact it seems to be not much more than shrimp and yellow chives. Although now that I look at the picture I see it has chunks of garlic and pickled red chillies. So much for my memory.
The subtle flavor of that shrimp/yellow chive dish never ceases to amaze me. But, I wanted something with a little more kick. I figured I'd give some scallops a very simple salt & pepper treatment, not much unlike the salt and pepper shrimp I often make.
The scallops were dusted with the mixture of white pepper, black pepper, Sichuan peppercorns, and salt, and seared briefly. The yellow chives were very simply sauteed in a wok with some peanut oil, along with some scallion for color contrast, and pickled Sichuan chillies (see, I actually got that part right!). A touch of soy and and black vinegar and sesame oil and a potato starch slurry and bing bang boom done. Here's what I did:
The stuff for the yellow chives
- Yellow chives (a good couple of bunches), cut into 1.5 inch pieces
- A few scallions, sliced on the bias
- A few Paocaifang Sichuan pickled chillies if you have them (available at popsharpstore.com). Feel free to omit or use salted chillies that you can make, or any chili for that matter. Sliced on the bias
- 1 T of Chinese light soy sauce (to taste)
- 1 t Chinese Chinkiang vinegar
- 1 t sesame oil
- 1 t potato starch (or corn starch) mixed with 2 T water
The stuff for the scallops
- 3/4 lb of scallops
- 1 T white peppercorns
- 1 t black peppercorns
- 8 or 10 Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 T salt
- Grind the salt and peppers for the scallops--I like grinding the salt, too, damnit.
- Dip each side of the scallops in the spice mixture to lightly coat each side.
- Sear the scallops on each side with a bit of peanut oil until done.
- Heat a bit of peanut oil in a wok or skillet, and add the yellow chives, and cook until just starting to wilt.
- Add the scallions and chillies and soy sauce.
- Cook briefly and add the starch slurry.
- Add the sesame oil off heat and plate. Top with the scallops.
You can serve this with rice, but I don't think the dish needs it. The chives have a great crunchy, chewy texture, and the dish isn't saucy. This is a good chance to skip the extra carbs and go right for the protein and vegetables.
With about 10 minutes of prep and 4 minutes of active cooking time, this dish comes together incredibly quickly. Do give it a try.