When Chef Darren MacLean opened two new restaurants in Calgary last fall at the Alt Hotel, he couldn’t have predicted where COVID would take the Canadian restaurant industry.

It’s going to be an uphill battle for us all, that’s for sure, but we can at least tuck into these MacLean’s Thai-insipired scallop recipe while we wait it out. He share the dish with us for our 2019 Foodies of the Year issue back in July 2019, which now feels like a lifetime ago, but a bite of these bright, bracing scallops has us looking forward to when we can dine at his establishments again.

Scallops with Nuoc Cham 

10 to 15 Nova Scotia scallops in shell, coral removed
¼ Japanese hawk or red Thai chili, finely chopped with seeds
…› cup cilantro stems, finely diced
1½ tsp shallot, finely diced
Handful of mint, finely chopped
…“ cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp white sugar
Pinch of green yuzu kosho paste
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp dashi
2 tbsp mirin
1 wedge of lime, cut into 4 pieces

Slice each scallop vertically into 8 to 10 slices. Lay strips in a long line, each overlapping the next by ¼ slice. Roll the line up into a rose and place back in the shell. (If this is too much work, cut scallops into 4 and place pieces back in shell.) Reserve in fridge.

Finely chop chili, herbs and shallots. Set aside. Mix together liquid ingredients with the sugar and blend/whisk until sugar has dissolved completely. Set aside, ensuring ingredients are kept very cold.

About 10 minutes before serving, mix herbs with liquids and set aside. Place each scallop atop crushed ice in individual bowls. Stir the nuoc cham herb mixture and place about 1 tbsp over each scallop (or more as needed). Squeeze lime overtop and serve with spoons and chopsticks. Serves 4.

Read Darren MacLean’s Foodie of the Year profile here.