Back when I was thinking of signature dishes for MasterChef, I wanted to make sure I covered my bases, so I had this dish in my back pocket in the event I had to make a fish dish. I named it Moon Crying, again after a Koda Kumi song, because she’s by far my favorite singer, so why the hell not? When I was thinking about the song, I thought about how the moon correlates to the ocean, so when the moon cries, the tide rises. I thought also about round, white ingredients, and immediately, I thought about scallops, coconut, and shaved radishes. To give off more of a watery appearance to the dish, I decided to use butterfly pea tea in a coconut sauce, just to give it that blue color. And to make it less of a children’s art book, I paired the dish with actual peas, since those work well with scallops, and to tie in with the powder. For the actual dish, it is scallops seared in coconut oil as well as dashi-poached scallops, with a dashi-charcoal lace tuile, inspired by Eric Ripert’s technique of whisking flour and stock in a pan, a coconut-butterfly pea tea sauce loosely inspired by Keralan moilee, dashi poached garden peas, and some radishes that were shaved and tossed in vinegar, for the acidity.
For this dish, I wanted to sort of use the dashi, which I made using the abductor muscles from the scallops, as a base for quite a few things. So I decided to poach two things with it, as well as use it as the base for my tuile. I dyed the tuile black for two main reasons: activated charcoal, or at least the brand I use, was made with coconut, so that ties my two sauces together, and because the blackness represents the night’s sky. I did not want to just do one preparation of scallop, because that’s boring and safe, so I went with searing and poaching, just so that the seared can hold the tuile without making it soggy, and the poached can sit directly on the sauce. The lace tuile was inspired by when I make potstickers, and use a slurry to form that lace around the dumplings, while the coconut sauce and the dashi are both two kinds of sauces that I grew up eating, being introduced to Japanese food from a young age, while my friends in college taught me a ton about Indian food my senior year. I wanted to use scallops because they are actually my mom’s favorite; as a kid, she would eat these dried scallops all the time, like they were candy. We grew up eating them in soups, so the way I composed the dish pays homage to that.
For the coconut sauce:
1/4 teaspoon butterfly pea tea powder
2 curry leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup lemongrass (2 2-inch stalks)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped galangal
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 shallot; diced
1 tablespoon coconut oil
14 oz coconut milk
a pinch of salt
Smash lemongrass. Sweat out aromatics(curry leaves, garlic, coriander, shallot, galangal, and ginger). Hit with the coconut milk, and mix in the tea powder. Season lightly and allow to simmer on low heat. Strain out the solids.
For the dashi:
1/4 cup bonito flakes
1/4 cup chopped kombu
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
abductor muscles from the scallops
a pinch of salt
Combine ingredients and bring to a simmer in a pot until the liquid turns a dark amber color. Strain out the solids and keep at low heat. For the poached scallops, season the fresh scallops with salt. Poach the scallops in this dashi for 1 minute. For the poached garden peas, trim them and then poach in the dashi for 1 minute before shocking in iced water to finish them.
For the tuile:
1/2 cup dashi
1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon activated charcoal powder
a pinch of salt
Whisk ingredients together, sans coconut oil. Line a small nonstick pan with the coconut oil and bring to medium-high heat. Pour in 2 oz of the batter and whisk until the batter begins to simmer and bubble in the pan. Turn the pan to low heat and allow the tuile to slowly dry. Gently remove and transfer to a paper towel to drain off any oil.
For the seared scallops:
fresh diver sea scallops
Pat the scallops dry. Season the scallops on one side. In a hot pan lined with coconut oil, place the scallops down, seasoned side down, and season the other side of the scallops. Flip after 1 minute and continue cooking for another minute, or until the scallops are caramelized on the outside, but still just slightly bouncy.
For the radishes:
1/4 cup mirin
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Shave the breakfast radishes and toss them in the mirin and soy to season them.