Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Culinary Adventure in Creation: Curried Coco-Mango Scallops Fettuccini

Take some fresh bay scallops I picked up on a whim, an organic mango I bought because the price was so good, some leftover coconut milk from when I made coconut rice, and a bunch of coriander that I forgot to add to the dinner I made Monday, and what do you get? A tasty culinary invention that I like to call Curried Coco-Mango Scallops Fettuccini. Now, that’s a mouthful, no pun intended. OK, I lied, pun totally intended.

I have to admit, when I’m in an inventive mood and I decide to cook something without using a recipe, I usually hesitate to do anything too outside of the box in terms of ingredients or flavor combinations. Sure, I’m not afraid to take a recipe and play around with the ingredients and directions to the point that it pretty much becomes new recipe, but I’m talking about when I don’t even peek at a single cookbook, magazine, or website before coming up with something I cook. I’ll often take a well-known dish, such as lasagna or carbonara and make my own version, but it is rare that I invent a totally new dish. This time, I decided to take a few more risks, and they certainly paid off.

This particular entrée was born of a number of ingredients I just happened to have around and I wasn’t sure what to do with. In addition to those listed above, I also had some panko, a lime, fish sauce, and some parsley that I wanted to use up.

I poached the scallops quickly in boiling water, then set them aside (I found they were easier to keep tender this way than sautéing them):The coconut milk, the fish sauce, and the lime were simmered in a sauce along with some chicken broth, curry powder, ground coriander, ground ginger, soy sauce, and butter.
I sautéed the mango with scallions, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes in olive oil:
Then, the sauce was added to the mango mixture:
…along with the scallops, some chopped cilantro and some cooked fettuccini. I tossed it all together:
I also sautéed some panko with some chopped parsley and butter until the panko was lightly browned:Finally, I served the pasta into shallow bowls, and topped it with the panko. You can add a couple of sprigs of coriander for garnish if you’re feeling kinda artsy:
I’ll bet it would also be nice to serve each bowl with a couple of lime wedges, but I didn’t have another lime leftover to try that with.

All right, so sure, I’m not the first to combine mango and scallops, and coconut and curry is a very popular flavor combination. In fact, I don’t think that anything I have done to make this dish is totally new, and I’m certain that every decision I made and step I took to create this meal was influenced by recipes I have followed before. But what I can claim as my own is the combination of the specific ingredients I chose, steps I took, and ingredients I used to make this very dish. Creating something is an exciting, life-affirming experience, even when you are creating something as simple as tonight’s dinner. And because no matter what’s going on in your life, you have to eat every day, creating a meal is an experience you can have every day. And this is one of the many reasons why I love cooking: it allows me to be creative over and over again in a way that is productive and can be shared with the people around me. So I encourage you to try this recipe (because it’s delicious), but I also encourage you to come up with one of your own. It’ll make your day.

Curried Coco-Mango Scallops Fettuccini
Makes about 2 large servings.

½ lb. of bay scallops (the small ones)

½ cup chicken broth
1 lime, juiced, halves reserved
1 ½ cups coconut milk
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tbsp.+3 tbsp. butter

½ lb. Fettuccini
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 scallions, white and green parts chopped
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish

1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

Boil water in a large pot, salt it, and fill a large bowl with cold water. Place your scallops in a fine-mesh metal strainer and submerge in the boiling water for 90 seconds. Remove the scallops by removing the strainer and submerge them immediately into the cold water to prevent further cooking. Test for doneness by cutting a scallop in half: it should be creamy white, and no longer translucent (it’s ok if there is a little translucency in the very center). Place scallops in a separate bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Reserve ¼ cup of the scallop poaching water.

In a saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a simmer. Add the following seven ingredients (including the juiced lime halves) and the reserved scallop poaching water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for about twenty minutes, until it reduces by about a quarter and thickens slightly. Swirl in 2 tablespoons of butter.

Meanwhile, cook the fettuccini according to package directions. When the pasta has been added to the water, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mango and cook for two minutes, until the outside has started to soften. Mix in the garlic, scallions, and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about a minute.

Remove the lime halves from the sauce, then add the sauce to the mango mixture. Stir in the scallops, the cilantro, and then the cooked fettuccini. Toss to combine. Cook on medium-low heat until the scallops are heated through, 1-2 minutes.

While the scallops are reheating, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the parsley and panko and cook, stirring often, until the panko has browned slightly, about 2 minutes.

Serve the pasta into shallow bowls and top each with about a handful of the panko and a couple of sprigs of cilantro.


  1. That looks delicious! Thanks for liking the meatball post as well.

  2. A while ago I made pasta with breadcrumbs but they were the second main ingredient of the dish :). This sounds delicious!

  3. @ Julie Jams: Thanks and you're welcome!

    @ Nurit: Any time you're using breadcrumbs in a pasta dish, especially with seafood, use panko. This stuff is amazing and crispy and you can get it everywhere!

  4. MMMMnummy! We definitely have to try that.
    Necessity may be the mother of invention, but leftovers are probably the father! :)
    Interesting how you simmered the lime halves peel and all!