Bright orange kabocha squash forms a sweet base for tender scallops, spiked with ginger and chile. The dish is also very good as a vegetarian version, without the scallops. Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour. Notes: Wai uses Chinese shrimp paste in this dish; we've substituted more readily available Asian fish sauce. Take care not to overcook the scallops—they'll be rubbery if you do.
Sunset FEBRUARY 2008
1. Peel and seed kabocha squash. Cut squash into 1/4-in.-thick slices, each about 2 in. long and 1 in. wide, to make about 2 cups. Arrange kabocha in an even double layer in a 9- to 10-in. heat-resistant glass pie pan.
2. Sprinkle squash evenly with half the ginger and chile slivers. In a small bowl, mix Shaoxing rice wine, fish sauce,1 tbsp. soy sauce, and sugar. Drizzle half the wine mixture over squash.
3. Pour 1 to 3 in. water into bottom of steamer (see "Steaming Setups," below). Place rack at least 1 in. above surface of water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Set pie pan on rack. Cover and steam until squash in center is tender when pierced, 9 to 12 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, rinse scallops, pat dry, and cut horizontally into 1/2-in.-thick slices. Mix scallops with remaining wine mixture.
5. When squash is tender, use tongs to arrange scallops in a single layer in center of pie pan, overlapping scallops if necessary but leaving squash exposed around edges. (Be careful of hot steam; remove rack or pie pan from steam with tongs and set it on a work surface if it makes arranging the scallops easier.) Cover and continue steaming until scallops are opaque on edges but still look transparent in centers, 2 to 3 minutes (they will continue to cook off heat; see Notes).
6. Turn off heat. Carefully lift pie pan from steamer. If it's difficult to remove, slip a wide spatula under pie pan to lift up, then grasp pie pan with a pot holder (or use two sets of tongs). Drizzle scallops with remaining 1 tbsp. soy sauce. Sprinkle with cilantro and remaining ginger and chiles.
Steaming Setups. All you need is a vessel to hold water, a rack to suspend the food over the water, and a lid to keep the steam in. Here are some possible combinations.
Wok and rack: A 14- to 16-in. wok with a domed lid and steamer rack or a round cake rack. Set wok on a ring if it wobbles. Put rack right in wok; the sloped sides will hold the rack over the water. The wide opening makes it relatively easy to remove the cooked dish. Woks run from $15 to $150 or more, and are widely available.
Bamboo steamer: Chinese stackable bamboo steamer baskets with lids. Set a 10- to 12-in. basket right in a 14- to 16-in. wok (make sure the bottom rim is just covered by water, as the baskets scorch easily; add boiling water as needed). Layer baskets to cook more than one dish. Bamboo steamers are generally $15 to $20 and are widely available.
Metal steamer: Chinese steamer pan topped with stackable baskets and a domed lid. Choose a 10- to 12-in.-wide steamer for greatest versatility. Stackable baskets can cook several dishes at a time. Metal steamers cost from $30 to $35 and may be found at Asian markets.
Western-style: A deep, wide pan or kettle with a lid, a round cake rack, and 3 empty cans. Set 2- to 3-in.-tall cans (both ends removed) into pan (or use the removable rim of a cheesecake pan). Top with a round cake rack and place pie pan on it; cover to steam.
Note: Nutrition analysis is per serving.
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