For years I had an irrational fear of seafood—it’s still not entirely cured. I’ve tried oysters once—in the living room of a chef—and I’m still not a convert; mussels and I get along ok when served in a coconut broth and I’ve successfully sampled scallops a few times. I think it comes down to texture, rather than origin. Irrational, I know.
I was passing our local fishmongers and spotted the juicy scallops nestled alongside the swordfish steaks—in the mood to break the everyday, I braved my phobia and purchased a dozen. From what I’ve read, scallops are delcious with Oriential flavours like chilli and ginger; I decided to experiment with a coconut laksa.
If you have the time, it’s worth making a trip to an Asian grocer to get the ingredients for this heart- and limb-warming broth. If not, it’s ok to skip the odd ingredient; this isn’t Masterchef, no one is judging you here…
Although there are a lot of ingredients, the recipe is straightforward, adding layer upon layer of spices and flavours to create the broth. Once the ginger, chilli, garlic et al have cooked, you add the coconut milk and water, leaving the mixture to simmer for around 40 minutes. The aroma took me straight back to the streets of Bangkok.
Our weekly veg box delivery had included purple kale, so diverting slightly from the recipe and style of laksa I added a generous handful to the pot. While the mixture simmered, I seared the scallops lightly as instructed – be careful not to overcook them, it’s easily done. Plating is easy – be generous with the broth and top with the scallops, sliced in half.
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
50 g ginger, unpeeled, sliced
sesame oil, for frying
1 red chilli, finely sliced (use more or less to taste)
4 lime leaves
1 small bunches coriander, with roots
2 black cardamom, roughly chopped
2 star anise, broken up
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 lump pale palm sugar, chopped
4 tbsp fish sauce
1.2 litres coconut milk
25 g tamarind paste
50-100 ml lime juice
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1. Heat a large pan and lightly caramelise the onion, garlic, galangal and ginger in 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Add 2/3 of the chilli, the kaffir lime leaves and the roots and stems of the coriander (pound them first to release the flavours). Stir in the spices and cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
2. Add the palm sugar, nam pla, coconut milk, tamarind and 600ml hot water and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add more nam pla, some lime juice and the squeezed lime halves. Leave to simmer while you assemble the rest of the dish.
4. Toss the scallops in a little sesame oil then sear in a really hot pan to colour the outsides, but do not cook beyond rare. Rest for a minute then slice in half horizontally.
5. Warm 4 deepish bowls. Ladle over the laksa broth and sit the seared scallops on top. Scatter with the reserved chilli slices, spring onions and the coriander leaves.