Steamed Garlic Scallops with Vermicelli (蒜蓉粉丝扇贝)
May 29, 2021  Print
Steamed Scallops with Garlic and Vermicelli is a popular Cantonese dish that is often served in gourmet Chinese restaurants. You usually pay for each one individually, which can be quite expensive. But you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy this flavorful yet delicate dish. It is actually quite simple to make at home.
In the US, scallops are mostly sold pre-cleaned, with only the big round meat remaining, whereas in many parts of the world, scallops are sold whole with their shells intact. There are definitely pros and cons to doing it either way. Cleaning shell-on scallops is the most time consuming part of cooking scallops. So it saves tremendous amounts of time when that part is done for you. But often, inside the shell along with the meat, scallops come with roe, which is also known as coral. The coral is quite flavorful on its own and also provides a bright colorful contrast to the white meat. So if you prize the scallop roe, you will have a hard time finding it in the US. That being said, if you can get your hands on scallops with roe, definitely do not remove the roe.
In this Steamed Garlic Scallop with Vermicelli recipe, lightly fried garlic added to fermented black bean infused soy sauce brings much umami and aroma to the scallops without overwhelming the delicate flavor of the scallop meat. The vermicelli absorbs the flavor of the sauce and also provides an interesting texture to the whole dish. You can serve it family style or as appetizer/main course for a dinner party.
In the past, I posted another seafood dish Steamed Garlic Butterfly Shrimp/Prawns, which uses a similar cooking method. If you like this scallop recipe, you will probably like the shrimp one as well.
Tool: Steamer or large pot with steamer rack.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 – 6 people
- 4 – 6 large scallops1
- ~1 oz thin Chinese vermicelli2
- 1 whole garlic
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons fermented black beans3
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 2 green onions (green parts only)
- 2 fresh chili peppers (optional)
- 4 – 6 scallop shells (optional)4
- Immerse the vermicelli in cold water until the vermicelli becomes soft, about 15 minutes (depending on the type and brand of vermicelli).
- Julienne the green parts of the 2 green onions and put them in ice water for about 15 minutes (this will make the green onions curl up a bit).
- While waiting for the vermicelli and green onions, prepare the other ingredients. Peel and mince the garlic. Chop the 2 teaspoons of fermented black beans and fresh chili peppers into small pieces. Set aside.
- Heat a small sauce pan under medium-low or low heat and add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the oil is slightly warm (not hot), add all the minced garlic. Lightly fry the garlic until fragrant and soft, but not brown; about 1 minute. Transfer the garlic along with the oil to a bowl. Add the chopped fermented black beans, 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, and 1/4 teaspoon of sugar to the garlic, mixing the sauce well.
- Heat the steamer under medium-high heat. While waiting for the water to boil, plate the scallops. First, arrange the scallop shells (or small sauce dishes) on a large plate that fits inside the steamer. Second, take a small portion of the softened vermicelli and use two hands to loop the vermicelli into a little nest and put it on top of each scallop shell (or a small sauce dish). Third, add 1 teaspoon of the sauce from step 4 to the vermicelli. Fourth, put one piece of scallop meat on top. Finally, add an additional 1 teaspoon of the sauce on the scallop.
- When the water boils in the steamer, carefully transfer the plated scallops to the steamer. Cover the lid and steam for 5 minutes under medium-high or high heat. When the time is up, immediately remove the scallop to avoid overcooking.
- Drain the julienned green onions and pat dry with a paper towel. Arrange a few green onions and 2 to 3 chopped fresh chili peppers on top of each scallop. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil under high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, pour a little bit on top of each scallop. Enjoy while hot!
- Scallops are often sold pre-cleaned, usually in bags or by the pound in the US. If you get the ones with their shells intact, make sure you clean the scallops thoroughly and save the scallop roe, also known as coral. If you use 6 scallops instead of 4, you can add only 1/2 teaspoon of the mixing sauce to the vermicelli to conserve the sauce.
- It’s best to use the thin Chinese vermicelli, made either with mung bean, yam, or potato starch.
- Fermented black beans are important to this dish. They are usually sold in vacuum sealed plastic bags. Once open, seal and store in the refrigerator. If you can’t find pure fermented black beans, you can use 2 tablespoons of Lee Kum Kee Seasoned Soy Sauce for Seafood and skip the light soy sauce and sugar. The taste will be lighter. You can also use 2 teaspoons of fish sauce to replace the fermented black beans but you may find the resulting flavor lacking.
- Some Asian grocery stores sell these scallop shells. They serve decorative purposes and they make the dish look super fancy. They are optional. You can use small sauce dish instead.
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