Asian flavors and Western cooking techniques join forces

Wolfgang Puck/Tribune Content Agency Published September 14, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Tribune Content Agency

Briefly sear the scallops before coating them in the teriyaki glaze.

In 1983, after opening my restaurant Chinois on Main in Santa Monica, California, I was proud to play a part in the culinary revolution known as Asian fusion. That term refers to combining traditional Asian ingredients, recipes and cooking techniques with those of other cuisines, particularly Western ones. At Chinois, our Asian fusion naturally placed a special emphasis on California cuisine, with its celebration of local in-season ingredients and simple, relatively quick cooking techniques.

Now, almost 35 years later, Asian fusion has become part of the way many people eat today, both in restaurants and at home. Supermarket Asian food aisles have expanded, along with the number of Asian ingredients in the produce section, and even the wines and spirits department. Every day, home cooks and chefs happily use ingredients such as soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, fresh ginger, lemongrass and sake, reaching for them as confidently as they reach for ketchup, barbecue sauce, parsley and white or red wine.

Looking at the following recipe for my teriyaki-glazed sea scallops with wasabi mashed potatoes, I’m surprised by the fact that, exciting and delicious though it sounds, it really doesn’t seem all that unusual. A generation ago, most people in the United States would have considered it exotic; today, it simply seems fun and flavorful.

You’ll also find the recipe surprisingly easy to make. When I tell you it doesn’t use store-bought teriyaki sauce, your first thought may be that making it yourself might be complicated or time-consuming. In fact, the few easy-

to-find basic ingredients of a classic teriyaki sauce — sake, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and honey (which I use instead of sugar) — are added all at once to the pan in which you’ve first briefly seared the scallops. Once those ingredients quickly reduce to a coating consistency, the scallops are then returned to finish cooking in the sauce, acquiring a shiny mahogany glaze.

The mashed potatoes, which you make first and keep warm while you quickly cook the

scallops, are just as easy. The main secret to them is the fact that I puree the Japanese hot green mustard powder called wasabi (which you no doubt know from sushi restaurants) with a little blanched spinach, before incorporating it into the potatoes. Why? Because the wasabi on its own would only turn the mashed potatoes pale green; the spinach, which doesn’t add too much of its own flavor, turns the mixture a bright jade green that looks beautiful as a backdrop for the scallops.

It all adds up to a beautiful main dish that you can make, start to finish, in a little more than 30 minutes. Thank Asian fusion for the well-deserved “oohs” and “ahs” from everyone at your table.


Serves 4

For the wasabi mashed potatoes:

1 pound organic baking potatoes, such as russets, peeled

2 large cloves garlic, peeled

Kosher salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/4 cup heavy cream, heated

1/2 pound baby spinach leaves, rinsed and drained, large stems removed

1 1/2 teaspoons wasabi powder

Freshly ground white pepper

For the teriyaki-glazed sea scallops:

1 pound fresh sea scallops, tough connective tissue at their sides peeled off and discarded

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1/2 cup sake

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons minced ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 cup honey

3 tablespoons bottled barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons minced scallions


For the wasabi mashed potatoes:

Cut the potatoes into large pieces of equal size. Put them in a medium-sized pot with the garlic cloves, add enough cold water to cover, season well with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Cook the potatoes until tender enough to be pierced easily with a fork or skewer, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes thoroughly, and return with the garlic cloves to the still-hot pot over very low heat for a few minutes to evaporate excess moisture.

Pass the potatoes and garlic through a ricer or a food mill back into the pot. With a wooden spoon, briskly stir in the butter and hot cream.

Meanwhile, in a clean pot, bring water to a boil; place a mixing bowl filled with ice cubes and water nearby. Add the spinach to the pot, immersing it for 10 seconds; then drain the spinach, and immediately plunge it into the ice water. Drain thoroughly, squeezing out excess liquid from the leaves. Place the spinach in a food processor with the wasabi powder. Pulse until finely chopped; then continue processing until pureed, stopping as needed to scrape down the side of the work bowl.

Stir the spinach-wasabi puree into the warm mashed potatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

For the teriyaki-glazed scallops:

Cut each scallop in half horizontally to make 2 round pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil and sear the scallops for 15 to 30 seconds on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Pour off and discard any excess oil from the pan. Away from the stove, carefully add the sake; then stir and scrape to deglaze the pan deposits.

Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the soy sauce, ginger, garlic, honey and barbecue sauce, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until thickened.

Return the scallops to the pan. Stir and turn them in the sauce to coat and heat them through. Remove from the heat.

Serve immediately, mounding the mashed potatoes on heated plates and spooning the scallops over and around the potatoes. Garnish with scallions.

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