Grilled Scallops with Cilantro

Another invention of mine, totally NOT Chinese but using some ingredients common to Chinese cuisine and very appropriate for that ever-popular summer activity: grilling! Fish sauce, a very salty concoction made from anchovies,  is a predominantly Vietnamese ingredient but is widely available in both Asian markets and many well-stocked conventional grocery stores (in the Asian food section).

Serves 6 as a main course, 8-10 as an appetizer.


  • 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 T finely minced onion – red, yellow, or white
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
  • 2 T oil – preferably high-heat sunflower or safflower oil
  • 2 T sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar, preferably brown or “raw”
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • chili sauce (such as Sriracha) or chopped salted chilies to taste – start with a modest amount! (optional)
  • 2.5 lb sea or bay scallops


  1. Combine all the ingredients except the scallops in a bowl and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 1-2 h.
  2. Rinse and pat the scallops dry, removing the small muscle that sometimes remains attached to the side – this can be very tough but makes wonderful seafood broth or stock when combined w/ fish bones, shrimp shells, etc.
  3. Mix the scallops gently with 1/2 the sauce until thoroughly coated.
  4. Refrigerate 1-3 h, turning gently 1/2 way through.
  5. Thread the scallops on skewers and grill over a medium flame, approximately 2 m for sea scallops, 1 m for bay.
  6. Brush with the reserved sauce, turn, and grill approximately another 2 m for sea scallops, 1 m for bay. Do not overcook, or the scallops will be tough and the sauce will burn.


  • Grill the scallops ahead of time and serve them warm or at room temperature as an hors d’oeuvre.
  • The scallops are also excellent served cold in a salad.

do ahead:

You can make the marinade up to 2 days ahead – best to leave the vinegar and chili sauce out until the time you plan to marinate the scallops.

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