Scallops with papaya salad and sweet chilli sauce

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Pacific Rim, an inelegant term more reminiscent of dubious sexual practices in Bangkok than a style of cooking, has been one of the dominant culinary trends of the late 1990s. With the arrival on my doorstep of The Sugar Club, Soho has definitely joined the international food movement. This dish is my response to this all-conquering trend, although I have to say that East-West fusion dishes have been on my menus for twenty-five years.

The papaya salad is a quietened-down version of the dish served at Chiang Mai, the excellent Thai restaurant next door to me in Frith Street. I say ‘quietened-down’ because the original contains a lethal level of chillies. David Sweetman, an English partner at Chiang Mai, once appeared in my kitchen seeking sanctuary from his Thai partners, protesting that they were all mad. Closer questioning revealed that he thought anyone who could eat food that spicy was clearly certifiable.

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Ingredients

  • 12 fresh scallops (the best are sold in their shells, order them from your fishmonger and ask him to shell them)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil

Sweet Chilli Sauce

  • 6 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 large fresh red chillies, seeded and very finely chopped

Papaya Salad

  • 1 green papaya
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 red onion, peeled
  • 2 limes
  • 1 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1 small bunch coriander leaves, thoroughly washed and stalks removed

Method

Making the Sweet Chilli Sauce

Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat and add the chopped chilli. Simmer very gently for 5 minutes and then allow to cool. It is best to make the sauce a couple of hours ahead to allow the chilli to infuse properly.

Making the Salad

Peel and seed the papaya and shred the flesh finely with a mandolin. Do the same for the carrot and onion. Place the shredded vegetables and fruit in a bowl and squeeze the limes on top. Add the fish sauce and half the coriander. Toss thoroughly, check the seasoning and set aside.

Cooking the Scallops

Heat a large non-stick frying pan. Halve the scallops horizontally, season and dress with the fish sauce and sunflower oil. Cook the scallops in the very hot pan for 1 minute on each side.

Serving

Arrange mounds of the papaya salad in the centre of four dinner plates. Top this with the scallops. Pour a thin line of the syrupy chilli sauce to encircle the salad. Scatter the remaining coriander over the plates.

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