This recipe was originally adapted from Martin Yan's "Pepper Seared Scallops" from his Chinatown cookbook. If you like Chinese food, this is a definite must-read! I have adjusted some of the quantities and ingredients. Most notably, my recipe does not include XO sauce. As with many Chinese dishes, the prep takes more time than the actual cooking, so be prepared to eat soon after you start cooking. What I love about this dish are the juxtapositions: the sweetness of the scallop with the bite of the pepper, the crunch of the vegetables with the creaminess of the scallop. I was so happy to have a scallop challenge since scallops are such a good sustainable seafood choice! A note about oyster sauce: buy the most expensive one at your store. I like Lee Kum Kee the best. —student epicure
coarsely ground black pepper (preferably Malabar or Tellicherry)
Heat Sichuan peppercorns in a small pan over high heat. Shake the pan every 20 seconds or so to toast, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a mortar and pestle and grind fine (see photo). Combine with black pepper, salt, and cornstarch.
Rinse scallops. If they came in a plastic container, return them to the container, otherwise place them in a new lidded container. Add the spice mixture. Gently shake to coat well. Return to fridge while preparing other ingredients.
In a small bowl, combine water, oyster sauce, and chili black bean sauce. Set aside.
Over high heat, heat a cast iron skillet (I prefer this to a wok because it's easier to evenly sear the scallops). When hot, add just enough oil to coat bottom of the pan. Add scallops and cook until golden on both sides, about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes per side. Remove to separate plate.
Add more oil to skillet. Again, just to coat the bottom. Add vegetable and cook until asparagus just begins to change color, about 1 minute. Add sauce and bring to a fierce boil. Cook just until asparagus is almost done, about 2 minutes, but check after 1 minute to gauge where they are. Quickly add the dissolved cornstarch and stir until sauce has thickened, another 15-20 seconds. Remove to serving plate and top with scallops. Serve immediately.