Stir-Fried Spicy Scallops with Orange Peel

Locale: China

Source: Barbara Tropp, The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking [p. 263]

Serves: 2


  • 0.5 lb bay scallops

To marinate the scallops:

  • 1 tbs egg white
  • 2 tsp Chinese rice wine
  • 0.5 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbs cornstarch
  • 4 large water chestnuts, fresh best
  • 2-3 oz spinach leaves, without stems


  • 2 finger-lengths dried orange peel, or 2-3 thumb-sized pieces fresh peel
  • 2.5 tbs scallions, finely minced
  • 2 tsp garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tsp ginger, finely minced
  • 0.25 tsp dried red chili flakes, or less

Sauce ingredients:

  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs Chinese rice wine
  • 1 tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 0.25 c chicken stock
  • 1.5 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbs cold chicken stock
  • 3 c peanut or corn oil, for frying spinach
  • 4-6 c water plus 1 tbs oil, for velveting scallops
  • 2 tbs peanut or corn oil, for stir frying


  1. If using sea scallops, cut down to bay scallop size. Put scallops in bowl. Combine egg white, wine, salt, and cornstarch; stir briskly until smooth. Pour marinade over scallops, and mix. Seal airtight, refrigerate 8-36 hours (longer is better).

  2. Peel fresh water chestnuts, or drain and blanch canned water chestnuts (15 seconds in boiling water). Cut into tiny dice.

  3. Mince orange peel, to yield 0.75 tsp. Combine orange peel, garlic, ginger, and red chili flakes on saucer. Mix sauce ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix cornstarch in chicken stock.

  4. Clean spinch leaves. Dry. Trim stems. Cut into thin strips. Deep fry the spinach: Heat oil to 400F. Drop spinach strips into oil. They will bubble instantly, then calm down. Remove from oil, draining on paper towel. They will be very brittle.

  5. Velvet the scallops: bring 4-6 cups water plus 1 tbs oil to a gentle boil. Push the scallops into the water and swirl around; drain after no more than 15 seconds, leaving the scallops only partly cooked.

  6. Stir-fry the dish: heat a large, heavy skillet. Add 2 tbs oil, swirl around. Add chopped aromatics, adjust heat to keep from burning, swirl around for 10-15 seconds. Add sauce and water chestnuts, raise heat and bring to a boil. Add scallops, turn quickly to coat, then add cornstarch mixture to thicken, by which time the scallops will be done. Scrape into a serving pan, then garnish with spinach.


  1. I often double this recipe, to serve 4-6, and combine it with other dishes, like dry fried string beans, to double up on the deep frying. I marinate the scallops overnight. I cut off strips of fresh orange peel with a vegetable peeler, then mince them fine. The prep work can be done leisurely in advance, including the deep frying and velveting (and there's no advantage here to velvet in oil). The final stir fry takes little more than a minute.

  2. I generally prefer sea scallops, which work well here, but the less expensive bay scallops are perfectly fine for this particular dish. Fresh water chestnuts add a little more flavor, but are unnecessary; canned water chestnuts primarily add a crunchy texture to contrast with the soft scallops.


  1. 2008-11-21: