Food fusion: Asian flavors and Western cooking techniques join forces
In 1983, after opening my restaurant Chinois on Main in Santa Monica, Calif., 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 like 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 it surprisingly easy. 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.
TERIYAKI-GLAZED SEA SCALLOPS WITH WASABI MASHED POTATOES
For the wasabi mashed potatoes:
1 pound organic baking potatoes, such as russets, peeled