Stir-fried Scallops with Lemongrass and Chili


300 g washed scallops
8 cloves garlic
3 stalks lemongrass (cut about 10 cm from root)
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon seasoning powder+1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon annatto oil (can be replaced by 1/2 teaspoon curry powder)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cayenne pepper (cow-horn pepper)+ some bird's eye chilies


Garlic, peeled, crushed and finely chopped.
Scallop meat, washed. Take 1/4 of the chopped garlic, 1/3 teaspoon of seasoning powder to season the scallops in about 5 minutes. Heat 1 teaspoon of cooking oil in a wok over high heat, when it's really hot, pour scallop meat into the wok, quickly toss in 1 minute. Turn off the heat, pour scallop meat into a strainer to drain the liquid from it. (Because scallops in Vietnam often exude so much liquid when stir-fried, if we stir-fry them until dried up, the scallops will be chewy. If the scallops at your place are bigger, more delicious and contain less liquid, you can skip this step). You just need to rinse the scallops well then pat them dry.
Peel off any old outer leaf of lemongrass, rinse well and thinly slice. Then finely chop (but not into a smooth texture)
Chili. Cut lengthwise from stem to end, de-seed, julienne and finely chop. If you love pungency, add some bird's eye chilies, this cayenne pepper is not strong enough for you. (Make sure to wear gloves when doing this step if you are not used to processing chili)
Put the wok on the stove, add one teaspoon of cooking oil. When the oil is hot, add chopped lemongrass and stir evenly in 2 minutes. When the lemongrass turns yellow and fragrant, add chopped chili and toss. Turn off the heat, remove the lemongrass and chili quickly, if not the lemongrass can be burnt because of the heat from the cooking oil. ( Some, after finely chopping lemongrass and chili, use half of this mixture to coat the scallops and the other half is used for stir-frying until fragrant then finally stir-fry with scallops. I don't follow that way as when eating, I feel that the lemongrass is not evenly distributed, the one used for seasoning the scallops is not crunchy but annoyingly rough. Therefore I fry both lemongrass and chili until fragrant then I use them to coat the scallops.)
Continue with the scallop meat. ( The same for both drained scallops and patted dry ones from now on). Season scallop meat with the remaining seasoning powder, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1/5 teaspoon of salt, annatto oil (can be replaced by curry powder just to color the scallop meat), all the fragrant fried lemongrass and chili, toss well and set aside to marinate from 5-10 minutes.
Put the wok on the stove again with the remaining cooking oil from the lemongrass and chili stir-frying step (can add some more if not sufficient). When the oil is hot, add the remaining garlic to fry until yellow then pour all the coated scallop meat into the wok, stir-fry over medium heat in about 5 minutes. When scallop meat turns firm, use high heat and stir then finish when the liquid in the wok dries up. (The time for this step is from 7-10 minutes, scallop meat will be tough if stir-fried longer)
This dish can pair well with salt, pepper and lime or salt, green pepper dipping sauce.

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