Pomelos are the sweeter, peppery ancestor of the grapefruit. Their pulpous juices pop in the mouth as you chew. (Like bursting bubble-wrap, it's all tactile fun.)
Pomelos are harvested November through June and are a symbol of plenty during Lunar New Year. Pomelos flourish in dry, semitropical climates, growing primarily in Florida, California, Arizona, and Texas. Available in a range of sizes--from grapefruit to basketball--it's no wonder they've earned the name Citrus grandis.
Pomelos may be purchased at Asian and Latin markets. As with any citrus, when selecting pomelo, feel for a heavy fruit with a smooth, undimpled rind. (Thicker, coarser rinds yield more pith than fruit.) The skin should have the slightest tinge of rose and bear the musk of grapefruit. In terms of musk, the stronger, the better.
- For the scallops:
- 1 pound sea scallops, each roughly 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter (dry packed if available)
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- For the chilled ingredients:
- 1 large pomelo (about 3 pounds)
- 1 green mango, peeled and sliced into matchstick strips
- 1 large, fat carrot, peeled and sliced into matchstick strips
- 1 English cucumber, deseeded and sliced into matchstick strips
- For the herbs:
- 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup rau ram leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup spearmint leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 kaffir lime leaves, very thinly sliced (optional)
- For the dressing:
- 1 red Thai bird chili, finely sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, pounded or pressed
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- For the garnish:
- 4 tablespoons lightly toasted sesame seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 4 tablespoons chopped Virginia-style roasted peanuts
Rinse scallops under cold water and thoroughly pat dry. Place scallops in a single layer on paper towels. Allow scallops to reach room temperature to draw out excess moisture. (See note.)
When ready to cook, sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper on their flat sides. Over a high flame, heat a non-stick pan with oil until it begins to smoke. Use tongs to add about 8-10 scallops to the pan, taking care that the scallops don't touch. (The scallops exude a little juice as they cook. When overcrowded in the pan, they steam rather than sear.) After 2 minutes, the contact side will develop a golden crust. Quickly flip the scallops and sear again for another 2 minutes. (The scallops should be lightly browned on each side but still translucent in the center.) Plate scallops immediately, and sear the next batch as necessary. Once all scallops have cooled, halve them lengthwise into thinner discs. Set aside.
Pomelo: With a paring knife, peel off the thick outer rind and cottony pith of the pomelo. Separate the fleshy pulp from the opaque skins that form each wedge. Gently pull chunks of pomelo pulp into bite-size pieces and place them into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag or large Tupperware.
Chilled ingredients: Prep mango, carrot, cucumber, and herbs. Gently toss these ingredients along with the scallops into the pomelo container. Refrigerate.
Dressing: Combine the chili, garlic, lime juice, and fish sauce in a small bowl. Refrigerate separately. An hour before serving, pour the dressing into the container holding the other refrigerated ingredients. Toss gently and fold through to combine.
Garnish: Heat a large flat skillet over medium heat. As it begins to smoke, add sesame and sea salt and toast for 2 to 4 minutes, tossing continuously to ensure even browning. The seeds will smell nutty and turn gold as they begin to brown. As soon as this happens, pour seeds onto a plate to cool. Plate the salad and garnish with toasted sesame and peanuts.
Note: Scallops sold in supermarkets are often pre-soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate (STP). STP plumps up scallops and increases the price per unit of weight. Unfortunately for the home cook, the excess moisture causes these pre-soaked scallops to steam rather than sear. Use dry-packed scallops if available and bring to room temperature to drain off fluids before cooking.