In the 1940s and 50s, many Chinese restaurants in America served a dish known as Lobster Cantonese. Composed of a deep-fried lobster drowning in goopy sauce, it was hardly authentic.
In the 1980s, Michel Tong reintroduced Lobster Cantonese at his restaurant, Shun Lee, in New York. In his version, the traditional Cantonese flavors of fresh ginger, sesame, and fermented black beans shine through, and the lobster is fried only lightly in order to preserve its delicate sweetness.
For this recipe you will need to cut a lobster into 12 pieces, which is easier to do than it sounds. With a heavy cleaver, simply whack the body into four pieces, the tail into two, and the claws into three pieces each. Crack each piece, cover, and store in the fridge until ready to use, no more than a few hours. (Of course, if the thought of doing all that chopping gives you the willies you can have your fishmonger do it for you.)
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- One 1 1/2-pound uncooked lobster, cut into 12 pieces
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- Vegetable oil, for passing through
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 3 scallions, white parts trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces, green parts trimmed and sliced into 2-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced
- 30 fermented Chinese black beans, lightly crushed with a cleaver and minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
Toss the lobster with the cornstarch in a medium bowl. Heat a large wok over medium high heat. Add enough oil to come 1 inch up the sides of the wok, and heat it to 325ºF. In batches without crowding, add the lobster and stir gently until the shells turn bright red, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Using a wide, wire-mesh strainer, transfer the lobster to a colander. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the oil from the wok.
To begin the sauce, mix the soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar in a small a bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Set it aside.
Return the wok with the oil to high heat. Add the white scallion pieces along with the ginger, garlic, and black beans. Stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add the lobster, then the soy sauce mixture. Stir-fry for 45 seconds. Add the green scallion pieces, and stir-fry until the sauce is glossy and the lobster is cooked through, about 45 seconds. Add the sesame oil. Serve immediately.