December 9, 2013
tartare de coquille Saint-Jacques marinés
(scallop tartar)
Seigi Uncle was an irascible old coot I knew as a fanatical lover of beer, especially Bud Light. He spent most of his life on Maui and didn’t trust people from the mainland. He also didn’t trust whites. He most certainly didn’t trust white mainlanders like me that didn’t have an appreciation for Bud Light. That never stopped him from calling from the living room of my in‑laws’ home, “Hey Peta! Bring me a beer!”
I liked Seigi Uncle. He always had pithy and or obnoxious things to say. The more I argued with him, the better we got along. He didn’t have much respect for people who didn’t stand up for their beliefs. Unfortunately, it took me a few visits to Maui to understand this.
Along with his Bud Light, Seigi Uncle appreciated certain salty snacks. One in particular was dried scallops. Here I had an advantage. I could walk into any Chinese apothecary and certain Chinese grocery stores on the mainland and find large jars of dried scallops ranging in price, depending on quality, from $20 to $120 per pound. He had to travel to a different island to obtain them. So whenever my wife and I came to Maui, we brought a half pound of dried scallops for Seigi Uncle.
So when I looked at the scallops that I was soaking in soy sauce, I thought of Seigi Uncle. As I wrote in a recent article, the idea of fermenting scallops in soy sauce with a salt concentration of more than 15 percent was still in an experimental stage. After five days, the scallops were tasting great if the saltiness didn’t bother you.
After drying rinsed scallops for a few hours in the refrigerator, the surface wasn’t as dry and the texture not as chewy as with dried scallops, but I still wondered whether Seigi Uncle would have liked them. Seigi Uncle passed away a few years ago, so I’ll never know.
If a liquid is salty, the saltiness can be reduced through dilution. It’s more difficult with solid foods since they do not disperse like liquids. So I decided to “dilute” the scallops with Jiro persimmon and peeled celery branches. I diced the scallops into a 3‑mm (18‑in) dice. I followed this by dicing the persimmon and celery the same size and quantity as the scallops. The three types of cubes were moistened with a small amount of walnut oil. The mixture was thoroughly chilled before serving.
The dilution and the experiment worked.

© 2013 Peter Hertzmann. All rights reserved.