My favorite seafood topped with my all time favorite sauce? Yes please! Plump scallops drizzled in ginger scallion sauce are the perfect easy weeknight treat. What makes this recipe even more special is that the scallops are first cured in shio koji, the Japanese rice mold used to make miso. The curing process gives the scallops an extra boost of umami and a caramelized crust.
Shio Koji: the best marinade you may not have heard of
A rice or grain mold used in the making of traditional Japanese miso, koji has a ton of enzymes which help break down and tenderize whatever it comes in contact with. Mix it with salt and water to form shio koji, a goopy white substance that serves as one of the best marinades for fish and meat around. While it’s flavor isn’t particularly intense, it does lend a serious boost of umami to anything it touches.
Marinating times with shio koji will vary depending on the size and toughness of the animal or vegetable. Lather steaks and let them sit for 24 hours for the juiciest meat around, or cure fish in as little as 30 minutes. Not a meat eater? Try marinating mushrooms before giving them a hard sear in a cast iron skillet.
You can buy shio koji at your local asian market, or online. Don’t be afraid to shell out for a larger container, as it will last in your fridge and you can use it to marinade pretty much any meat or vegetable.
Searing with Shio koji: don’t crank up the heat
Because shio koji contains a good amount of naturally occurring sugars, your proteins will brown more quickly, or rather almost immediately. It’s easier to burn, so instead of cooking on very high heat, reduce to a medium and watch VERY carefully.
How to cure scallops with shio koji
Because scallops are small and delicate, they only need about 30 minutes of marinating time. First, cover the scallops in koji and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Next, use a paper towel to remove the koji from each scallop and place on a paper towel lined plate.
Then, lightly salt the scallops and cover with another paper towel. Place the whole plate in the fridge for another 10 minutes to absorb any additional moisture.
Make sure to buy large scallops labeled “dry.” Some scallop producers will soak their scallops in a saline solution to keep them fresh longer. These will release a TON of water when you try to sear them, making browning pretty much impossible. Same goes for small bay scallops.
Shio Koji Cured Scallops with Ginger Scallion SauceCourse: Appetizers, MainCuisine: Japanese, ChineseDifficulty: Moderate
Plump scallops drizzled in ginger scallion sauce are the perfect easy weeknight treat. What makes this recipe even more special is that the scallops are first cured in shio koji, the Japanese rice mold used to make miso. The curing process gives the scallops an extra boost of umami and a caramelized crust.
- For the scallops
10-12 large scallops, labeled “dry” (not bay scallops or scallops soaked in saline solution)
⅓ cup shio koji
Canola or avocado oil
1-2 tbsp butter
Lemon wedges, for serving
- For the ginger scallion sauce
1 inch ginger, rough chopped
2 large scallions, rough chopped
¼ cup canola oil
¼ tsp salt, or more to taste
- In a bowl, cover the scallops with the shio koji. Set in the fridge to marinade for 30 minutes.
- While the scallops cure, place the ginger and scallions in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not pureed. It’s OK if it’s chunky.
- In a small saucepan, heat the oil until it shimmers.
- Place the scallion ginger mixture in a heat proof bowl and pour the hot oil over it.
- Stir, then season with salt. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. It should be salty.
- Line a plate with a paper towel and remove the scallops from the fridge
- Using another paper towel, wipe the koji from each scallop and place on the towel lined plate.
- Season lightly with salt, then top the scallops with another paper towel and place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
- Remove the scallops from the fridge and use the paper towel to blot out any additional moisture.
- Heat a large cast iron pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking hot (less hot than you would traditionally want for scallops).
- Sear the scallops for about 60-90 seconds on the first side, until a nice crust forms. Be careful as the koji will brown more easily.
- Flip and cook for another 60 seconds.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the butter and baste for another 60 seconds.
- Place scallops onto a plate and drizzle with ginger scallion sauce (you won’t use all of it, save the rest for another use).
- Serve with lemon wedges.
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