Here, Chinese fermented black beans are stir-fried with garlic and ginger, flavor-enhanced with Chinese or Japanese rice wine, and blended into a delicate puree that makes a delicious dip to complement all sorts of grilled seafood, including plump sea scallops. Sweet mirin counterbalances the saltiness of the beans.
fermented black beans (see Note) or 1 tablespoon black bean-garlic sauce (see Note)
canola oil, divided
garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced
finely grated fresh ginger
Shao Hsing rice wine (see Note) or Japanese sake
mirin, (see Note)
toasted sesame oil
fresh cilantro, stems trimmed, plus sprigs for garnish
large dry sea scallops, (see Note)
freshly ground pepper, or to taste
If using fermented black beans, place them in a small bowl, cover with water and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until light golden and fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Add the black beans (or black bean-garlic sauce) and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Carefully pour in rice wine (or sake), mirin and sesame oil
; lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, lightly crushing the black beans, until the liquid is reduced by about half, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Put cilantro, lemon juice
and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a blender; process until smooth. Transfer the marinade to a large bowl, add scallops and gently toss to coat with the marinade. Divide the scallops among 6 skewers, spacing about 1/2 inch apart. Season with pepper. (Discard marinade.) Oil the grill rack (see Tip). Grill the scallops until golden and crisp on the edges and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Serve with the black bean sauce and garnish with cilantro sprigs.
Notes:Fermented black beans, oxidized soybeans that are salt-dried, have a savory
, salty and slightly bitter flavor. They are frequently used in Chinese stir-fries, marinades and sauces. Before using, they should be soaked in water 10-30 minutes to get rid of excess salt. When purchasing fermented black beans, look for shinny and firm beans, rather than dull and dry with salt spots. Once open, store in plastic in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.
Black bean-garlic sauce, made from pureed salted and fermented black soybeans, is a widely used condiment in Chinese cooking and can be found with the Asian food
in most supermarkets.
Shao hsing (or Shaoxing) is a seasoned rice wine available in many Asian specialty markets and some large supermarkets. Japanese sake or dry sherry are acceptable substitutes.
Mirin is a low-alcohol rice wine essential to Japanese cooking. Look for it in your supermarket with the Asian or gourmet ingredients. An equal portion of sherry or white wine
with a pinch of sugar may be substituted.
We prefer "dry" sea scallops (not treated with sodium tripolyphosphate, or STP). Scallops treated with STP ("wet" scallops) are mushy, less flavorful and will not brown properly.
Tip: How to oil a grill
rack: Oil a folded paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.)
MAKE AHEAD TIP: The sauce
(Steps 1-2) will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Calories 196, Total Fat 6 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Monounsaturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 37 mg, Sodium 183 mg, Carbohydrate 8 g, Protein 20 g, Potassium 383 mg. Exchanges: Other Carbohydrate 0.5,Lean Meat 3,Fat 1.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet