Grilled Sea Scallops with Cilantro & Black Bean Sauce


Recipe Information

Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6, about 4 scallops and 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce each

Chinese fermented black beans are stir-fried with garlic and ginger for these succulent scallops.


  • 2 tablespoons fermented black beans (see Note) or 1 tablespoon black bean-garlic sauce (see Note)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup Shao Hsing rice wine (see Note) or Japanese sake
  • 1/4 cup mirin, (see Note)
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stems trimmed, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 pounds (24-30) large dry sea scallops, (see Note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste


Six 10-inch skewers


  1. If using fermented black beans, place them in a small bowl, cover with water and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until light golden and fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Add the black beans (or black bean-garlic sauce) and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Carefully pour in rice wine (or sake), mirin and sesame oil; lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, lightly crushing the black beans, until the liquid is reduced by about half, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Preheat grill to high.
  4. Put cilantro, lemon juice and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a blender; process until smooth. Transfer the marinade to a large bowl, add scallops and gently toss to coat with the marinade. Divide the scallops among 6 skewers, spacing about 1/2 inch apart. Season with pepper (discard marinade). Oil the grill rack. Grill the scallops until golden and crisp on the edges and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Serve with the black bean sauce and garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Tips & Notes


  • Fermented black beans, oxidized soybeans that are salt-dried, have a savory, salty and slightly bitter flavor. They are frequently used in Chinese stir-fries, marinades and sauces. Before using, they should be soaked in water 10-30 minutes to get rid of excess salt. When purchasing fermented black beans, look for shinny and firm beans, rather than dull and dry with salt spots. Once open, store in plastic in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.
  • Black bean-garlic sauce, made from pureed salted and fermented black soybeans, is a widely used condiment in Chinese cooking; look for it in the Asian food section.
  • Shao hsing (or Shaoxing) is a seasoned rice wine. Japanese sake or dry sherry are acceptable substitutes.
  • Mirin is a low-alcohol rice wine essential to Japanese cooking. Look for it in the Asian food section. An equal portion of sherry or white wine with a pinch of sugar may be substituted.
  • We prefer "dry" sea scallops (not treated with sodium tripolyphosphate, or STP). Scallops treated with STP ("wet" scallops) are mushy, less flavorful and will not brown properly.


How to oil a grill rack: Oil a folded paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.)

Make Ahead Tips

The sauce (Steps 1-2) will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Nutritional Information

196 calories, 6 g. fat, 37 mg. cholesterol, 183 mg. sodium, 8 g. carbohydrate, 0 g. fiber, 20 g. protein, 0 g added sugars