Smoked Oriental Seafood is a quick and tasty stir fry with a spicy, garlicky kick. The name of the recipe is misleading: if you’ve come looking for seafood infused with smoke you’ve come to the wrong place, nor are any of the supporting ingredients smoked, smoky, or even smoke-flavored. As best as I can figure the word “smoked” in this context just means fried in very, very hot oil. (The short stir-fry certainly set off my smoke detector). The obvious misnomer is particularly surprising given the recipe’s source: a trained and celebrated chef who one would presume would know better. I also wondered whether the term “Oriental” was appropriate for the modern internet, and considered rebranding the recipe Smoked Asian Seafood. The same internet, however, internet assures me that the term “Oriental” is still appropriate when speaking of objects, foods, and customs originating in the Eastern hemisphere. It is only generally considered offensive when used to describe a person.
The recipe comes to me by way of Cooking with Regis & Kathie Lee, a 1993 cookbook that compiles recipes from guest appearances on Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee. Smoked Oriental Seafood comes courtesy of Washington DC Chef Jeff Tunks. At the time Tunks was head chef at The River Club, a Georgetown night club and restaurant concept. Tunks’ appearance would coincide with the height of The River Club’s popularity; it closed its doors in 1997 after operating for a decade. In the intervening years Tunks has been with restaurants all over the United States, most recently as partner and executive chef at Corvina Seafood Grill in Boca Raton, Florida. He seems to have a penchant for what the 1990s would have called “fusion food”. Tunks’ restaurants take traditional ingredients from all sorts of cultures and cuisines and mash them all together.
Smoked Oriental Seafood takes its flavor cues from the holy trinity of Asian cuisine: ginger, garlic, and scallions. There are heroic amounts of all three, plus rooster sauce and soy sauce. There is more than enough to coat the seafood and leave a surfeit of rich and flavorful sauce behind. The recipe could not be simpler. Pick your favorite seafood. Make a paste from the ginger, garlic, and rooster sauce. Stir fry with the scallions. Then add soy sauce at the end to scrape up the good stuff stuck to the wok. It takes more time to prep your mise en place than it does to cook. The whole recipe comes together in 10-15 minutes tops. There are two tricks to getting it right: don’t skimp on the oil, and don’t be afraid to push your stovetop to its highest setting. You want a short cook with blistering heat and plenty of oil to keep your seafood from sticking. Maybe back off a bit if you’re using cast iron, but any half-decent carbon steel wok should do just fine.
Smoked Oriental Seafood is not specific about what type of seafood to use, nor does it need to be. The sauce is sort of an all-purpose delicious that will go with anything you can dream up. I used extra large peel and eat shrimp with very good results. I peeled some before cooking but left others in their shells: peeling the shrimp and licking your fingers was much more fun, but both were delicious. This recipe would also work well with scallop pieces, calamari, or 1″ chunks of a firm-fleshed fish like salmon. If you choose to use fish filets choose a sturdy fish. It needs to be able to hold up to a 3 minute stir-fry.
Make sure to have a heaping pile of steamed white rice ready to sop up the extra sauce. There will be more than enough to go around. White rice noodles or bean threads would work just as well. Serve with stir-fried or steamed green vegetables and you’ve got a complete meal. If you’re feeling in a “fusion” mood, slice and toast a baguette and serve them hors d’oeuvres style, with a bitter green salad on the side. This is a hard one to screw up. It’s not rocket science, and it’s delicious. Enjoy!
- 2 lb seafood (suitable for stir-frying: see Note)
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 tbsp Asian-style hot sauce (such as sriracha or sambal oelek)
- 1 bunch scallions
- ½ cup neutral oil
- ½ cup soy sauce
- Prepare seafood and pat dry.
- Mix garlic, ginger, and hot sauce in a small bowl. Mix together or blend to make a smooth paste.
- Slice scallions, including white and green parts, and place in a small bowl.
- Arrange all ingredients, including soy sauce, near your cooking area.
- Heat oil in a carbon steel wok over the highest heat you're comfortable with. When the oil begins to smoke add the seafood and stir-fry, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
- Stir-fry two minutes, then add garlic-ginger sauce and scallions and stir-fry one minute more, taking care not to burn the garlic.
- Add soy sauce and vigorously scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the work. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
This recipe works best with firm seafood about 1″ in diameter: large shrimp, scallop pieces, calamari, or chunks of firm-fleshed fish. The cooking time is short, and pieces that are too large or small will be improperly cooked at the end of the stir-fry.