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Five-Spice Scallops with Chinese Black Bean Sauce

Created and presented by Myra Kornfeld

Here, spice-rubbed scallops are topped with a zesty sauce. Five- spice powder, a combination of fennel, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and schezwan peppercorns, along with fermented black soy beans, give this dish its signature flavor. Both are available in gourmet stores and Asian markets. Have all the ingredients for the sauce ready to go before you sauté the scallops, since the sauce comes together in just a couple of minutes.

Editor's note: Myra's recipe calls for sesame oil, which is characteristic of Chinese cuisine. At the cost of altering its flavor, you can cut the omega-6 content of this recipe radically by using mildly nutty macadamia nut oil instead.

Cook's note: To prep the black beans, immerse them in a little water. Lift out the beans, leaving the salt behind. Chop the beans finely.

Serves 4


1 pound Alaskan sea scallops, defrosted and wiped dry
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
Unrefined toasted sesame oil or macadamia nut oil
to film the pan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 tablespoon unrefined sesame oil or macadamia nut oil
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
3 cloves minced garlic
3 tablespoons fermented black beans, rinsed and chopped
2 tablespoons dry sherry or mirin
1 tablespoon shoyu
1 teaspoon sugar, preferably a natural sugar such as evaporated cane sugar (e.g., Sucanat)
1/2 teaspoon arrowroot powder
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil or macadamia nut oil
1/4 cup chopped chives, or thinly sliced scallions

  • Pat the scallops dry once more. Rub the scallops with the five spice powder.
  • Film a large non-stick skillet with sesame oil and place over medium high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until a hand held 1-inch above the pan feels hot.
  • Put the scallops in the pan in a single, uncrowded layer. Season with salt and pepper and let sear undisturbed until one side is browned and crisp, 2 to 4 minutes.
  • Using tongs, turn the scallops and sear until the second side is well browned and the scallops are almost firm to the touch, 2 to 4 minutes.
  • Take the pan off the heat, transfer the scallops to a plate, and set them in a warm spot. Wipe out the skillet before you make the sauce.
  • Warm the sesame oil in the skillet together with the ginger, garlic, and black beans. Cook 1 minute, until sizzling. Stir in the sherry, shoyu, and sugar, and cook for or 30 seconds.
  • Mix the arrowroot with 1/4 cup water in small bowl with the toasted sesame oil until well combined. Pour into skillet, stirring constantly about 30 seconds, or until the liquid thickens. Stir in the chives or scallions.
  • Add the scallops to the sauce and toss to combine or spoon over the scallops. Serve hot.  

© Myra Kornfeld. All Rights Reserved

About Myra Kornfeld

A veteran restaurant chef, recipe developer and editor, private chef and menu consultant, Myra Kornfeld believes that good food, enjoyed in good company, with great conversation is among the greatest of life's pleasures.

Myra is the acclaimed author of several great cookbooks, including these titles available at

  • The Healthy Hedonist: More than 200 Delectable Flexitarian Recipes
  • The Healthy Hedonist Holidays
  • The Voluptuous Vegan: More than 200 Sinfully Delicious Recipes.

Myra Kornfeld is also the Head Chef & Content Manager of, an instructor at The Natural Gourmet School of Health and Culinary Arts, the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, and the graduate program in Nutrition and Integrative Health at the Tai Sophia Institute.

Learn more at
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