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Dried scallop is a type of dried seafood item that frequently appears in Chinese cuisine; it is also known as conpoy, a term from the Cantonese language. Conpoy is generally derived from a certain set of sea scallop muscles called adductors. Traditional methods of making dried scallop involve pan-searing fresh scallops and preserving them with salts that dry them while preventing decay; these methods are similar to those used to preserve meats before the development of modern refrigeration. Dried scallop is often considered a delicacy that is used to add flavor to various Cantonese-style soups and other types of dishes.
Many recipes can require the Chinese dried scallops to be rehydrated before adding them to the rest of the given dish. This step is typically done by soaking the dried scallops in hot water for about 30 minutes so that the scallops can be easily pulled apart or cut into smaller pieces. Experienced Chinese cooks advise against leaving dried scallops in the hot water for too long, otherwise they may become too soggy and break apart too much when further cooked with the rest of the recipe.
Dried scallop congee is a popular Chinese dish that somewhat resembles a type of rice porridge. In addition to reconstituted dried scallops and boiled rice, this dish typically includes chopped onions, minced pork, sesame oil, white pepper, and salt to taste. One tip that some cooks offer is to save the water used to rehydrate the dried scallops and add it to the cooking rice for added salt flavor. Others also recommend cracking and stirring a raw egg into the congee while the mixture is still boiling; the egg will cook in a manner similar to that of a poached egg and give the dish a smoother texture.
While dried scallop is readily available in some areas, it can be scarcer in others and therefore often more expensive. Some Chinese markets in these regions often need to sell their scallops at somewhat higher prices in order to make up for the ingredient's import costs. Experienced cooks who frequently buy dried scallops have found that purchasing them in smaller individual sizes can usually lead to savings. A number of these markets can also sell scallops that are not completely intact but otherwise fresh at discounted prices; this practice can also be economically convenient for home cooks who are planning a dish with rehydrated and chopped dried scallops.
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