Conpoy Has Umami to Spare

Conpoy is dried scallops, says Tripeler—just the main muscle without any other parts. "Umami, where are thou?" says ipsedixit of the flavorful ingredient. It's "essential for good rice porridge, perfect with braised and sliced abalone, and great for making chicken stock," says ipsedixit. In chicken stock, it doesn't add a strong fishy pungency, just balance. "It's a perfect complementary profile, and it's the same reason I never use conpoy for fish steak (or fish head stews)," says ipsedixit. "Sort of like gilding the lily."

"Throw in mushrooms with conpoy and dried shrimp and that broth essence is crackalicious," says K K. "One very easy comfort-food Cantonese dish is runny/smooth scrambled egg stir fried with scallions and conpoy. Quick fix and delish over rice."

How is conpoy acquired? "I buy mine by weight (e.g., grams) straight from a big glass container (at a store that sells Chinese herbs)," says ipsedixit. "You have to trust your supplier. Smell it, feel it in your hands, nibble a bit if you can. Different ones have different flavor profiles. Some are sweeter, others are brinier, and the cheaper ones are just salty and very flat." "They say the less cracks/wrinkles in the dried scallop, the better the quality (and higher the price)," adds K K. "Definitely stick with Japanese (Hokkaido) scallops for conpoy."

Discuss: what's Conpoy?

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