I met my most recent sous chef, Isabella "Bella" Lin, a year ago at a party I was catering. She had an undeniable spunkiness that drew me to her. We easily became fast friends, sharing a good laugh over the fact that we had both made our acquaintance in French despite English being our more comfortable common language. We closed down the bar with her managing to talk me into belting out a few show tunes with the house band to end the night, a testament to her naturally contagious zest for life.
Little did I know that this budding friendship would also be the beginning of a very successful working relationship. Two weeks later, Bella joined me full-time in the kitchen at Pasdeloup. Her bright spark of energy and her broad culinary experience helped round out and complete our little kitchen family. Having been born in Taiwan, she was also able to help me express more clearly a lot of the flavours I had been interested in exploring and together we created some really exciting food. This recipe, featuring a Taiwanese-style cocktail sauce that is truly excellent served alongside any kind of seafood, is one of many examples of our work together over this past year.
This week sadly marks the end of Bella's time with us as she will be heading home to Taiwan for some well-deserved time off. I am now tasked with the (do I dare say impossible?) job of finding her replacement. So this recipe is dedicated to you, my dear Bella, and to all your hard work keeping our kitchen organized and keeping us all on track. Through thick and thin, you have always had my back. I could not have done it without you.
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Bella’s sauce (Taiwanese five flavour sauce)
½ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon black rice vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1-inch piece of ginger, grated on microplane
1 small clove garlic, grated on microplane
1 tablespoon coriander stems, finely minced
12 pieces large, freshly shucked diver scallops (preferably still attached to their shells with the skirt intact)
¼ cup coarse grey sea salt
4 cups filtered cold water
2 pieces dried kombu seaweed
Scallop skirts (if desired)
2 tablespoons grey salt
2 small pieces kohlrabi
1 bunch watercress, washed and spun dry, large stems removed
½ cup fresh Thai basil leaves
1 cup fresh coriander
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fleur de sel
Black sesame seeds
Bella’s sauce (Taiwanese five flavour sauce): Mix all ingredients together well in a small bowl. Set aside in the fridge.
Scallops: While still on their shells, rinse the scallops well under cold running water to remove any shell debris or sand particles.
To release the scallops, use a soup spoon to carefully scoop the scallop meat and the skirt away from the shell. Save six of the shells and discard the rest. Trim the skirts and set aside in the fridge. Discard the guts.
Scrub the shells clean using warm soapy water. Set aside to dry.
Combine the grey salt and cold water and whisk until dissolved. Add the scallop meat and kombu and brine for 12 minutes.
Remove scallops and kombu from the brine liquid. Lay one piece of kombu flat on top of a large piece of plastic wrap and line 6 of the scallops down the middle. Carefully roll the kombu around the scallops as if you were rolling a sushi, using the plastic wrap to your advantage to help keep it all together. Continue to roll the plastic tightly around the whole package, squeezing out as much air as possible. Repeat for the remaining scallops and kombu. Store in the fridge on a plate overnight.
In the morning, mix a new batch of brine (1/4 cup grey salt and 4 cups cold filtered water) with a whisk until salt is dissolved. Unwrap the plastic from around the kombu, careful not to rip the kombu away from the flesh of the scallops. Place the rolls into the new salt water brine and allow the kombu to loosen naturally.
Remove scallops from brine, and pat dry. Store on a plate, covered loosely with parchment paper until ready to serve.
Kohlrabi salad: Add the grey salt to the skirts and massage well together for one minute. Rinse under cold water until the water runs clean. Cut into 3-cm long pieces and blanch in a small pot of simmering water for 10 minutes. Strain and cool. Place in a medium-sized, non-reactive mixing bowl.
Slice the thick layer of outer skin off the kohlrabi using a sharp knife. Slice each kohlrabi lengthwise into thin pieces and then cut into julienne strips for a maximum total of 2 cups. Add to the mixing bowl.
Add Bella’s sauce and toss to combine. Set aside in fridge up to three hours until ready to serve.
Herb salad: Toss together.
Assembly: Cut scallops into 1-cm thick slices and add to a medium-sized bowl with the herb salad. Toss gently with the olive oil, lemon juice and a small pinch of fleur de sel.
Divide the salad evenly between 6 bowls, keeping a few basil and coriander leaves aside for decoration if desired. Place a clean shell, bowl side up, in each bowl over the salad. Divide the kohlrabi salad evenly amongst each of the shells. Layer the scallop pieces over the kohlrabi. Sprinkle on some sesame seeds. Serve immediately.