Shrimp in Lobster Sauce – Where is the Lobster?

Have you ordered Shrimp in Lobster Sauce in a Chinese restaurant only to discover when the dish arrives, these is NO lobster in the sauce?

Where is the Lobster?

There really is no lobster in Shrimp in Lobster Sauce. According to one version of the story, the name for this dish came about when a regular patron of a particular Chinese restaurant who always ordered his favorite dish, Lobster Cantonese, arrived at the restaurant short on cash and asked the manager if the chef could prepare the dish using shrimp instead of lobster. The manager replied “no problem” and Shrimp in Lobster Sauce (albeit without lobster) was born.

The main ingredient that makes the sauce in both dishes unique is Chinese fermented black beans (see NOTE) so I decided to name my recipe Shrimp in Black Bean Sauce.

This dish is at its best made and served at once, which could create logistical problems when entertaining, but since the actual cooking time is only about 10 minutes, it is easy to impress your guests with this delectable dish.

The secret to pulling this off with ease is to prepare all the ingredients ahead of time and keep them refrigerated until you are ready to fire up your wok or frying pan.

SHRIMP IN BLACK BEAN SAUCE aka Shrimp in Lobster Sauce

From “My Students’ Favorite Chinese Recipes updated edition” by Norma Chang

1 pound raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, washed, pat dry with paper towels and toss well with ¾ teaspoon kosher salt. Refrigerate while preparing the other ingredients.
4 ounces lean ground pork
1 tablespoon Chinese fermented (salted) black beans, rinsed and drained (see NOTE 1)
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon sugar
Dash of white pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon ginger wine
2 – 3 slices ginger from ginger wine
1 teaspoon soy sauce (see NOTE 2)
1 scallion, thinly sliced, set aside 1 tablespoon for garnish
3 – 4 tablespoons oil
¾ cup chicken broth
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon cornstarch combined with 2 tablespoons water

1. Heat wok or frying pan. Add 2 – 3 tablespoons oil. Swirl to coat cooking surface. Add ginger slices, let steep until lightly browned and oil reaches smoking point. Add shrimp, stir-fry over high heat until shrimp changes color. Remove to a clean platter. Discard ginger slices.
2. Add 1 tablespoon oil to wok, if needed. Add fermented black beans and garlic, stir-fry over medium-heat until fragrant, 1- 2 minutes. Add pork, stir-fry until pork changes color. Sir in sugar, white pepper, ginger wine, soy sauce and scallion. Mix thoroughly. Add shrimp and mix well. Add broth. Cover, bring to a boil. Simmer until shrimp is cooked.
3. Thicken with cornstarch mixture. Slowly stir-in beaten eggs. Remove to a serving platter as soon as eggs are cooked. Garnish with reserved scallion and serve at once.

NOTE 1: Fermented black beans also known as salted black beans or preserved beans are made from soy beans. They are dry to the touch and have a soft texture. Quite salty and taste like dried cured olives. Available at Asian market, specialty food markets and the international section of some supermarkets.
Substitute: 1 – 2 tablespoons black bean garlic sauce for the fermented black bean and garlic.

NOTE 2: Use gluten free soy sauce for a GF version.

Copyright © by Norma Chang

Robin, The Gardener of Eden, is the host for Thursdays Kitchen Cupboard. Head on over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard to see to see what others are cooking.

About Norma Chang

I am the author/publisher of 2 user-friendly Chinese cookbooks: "My Students' Favorite Chinese Recipes (updated edition)" and "Wokking Your Way to Low Fat Cooking" A gardener who enjoys cooking and eating and loves to think outside the box A garden volunteer at Locust Grove Heritage Vegetable Garden Conduct hands-on cooking workshops for teenagers Conduct cultural programs for children and family Conduct healthy cooking classes for adults
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40 Responses to Shrimp in Lobster Sauce – Where is the Lobster?

  1. Wilderness says:

    I love shrimp, I wish my DB would eat it. I so love your recipes but getting the ingredients is next to impossible around here. No specialty food stores or big supermarkets.

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Wilderness,
      Leave out the fermented black beans and see how you like the dish. True it is a key ingredients for that particular recipe, but leaving it out you just created a new dish.

  2. Robin says:

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. “The Italian” would eat Asian food every day! I need to get some shrimp at the market tomorrow

  3. Hi Norma,

    What can one substitute for ginger wine?

  4. leduesorelle says:

    I’ll have to try this with our northern shrimp now that they’re in season! Have you tried fermenting your own black beans?

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Leduesorelle,
      I was thinking about you and your buckets of nothern shrimp when I was writing this post. Do let me know how you like the recipe.
      No I did not try to make my own fermented black beans. To me, somethings are just not worth while making. And my mother used to say, “we must allow others to make a living”.

  5. Deanna says:

    I always wondered why there was no lobster. Makes sense now. I figured it was lobster stock in the sauce.

  6. Liz says:

    I love the story of how it got its name. This looks great, if anything is going to get the kids to eat prawns it will a dish like this – off to buy fermented black bean.

  7. kitsapfg says:

    Reading these delicious recipe blog posts late in the evening is dangerous for my waistline! LOL! Yum!

  8. Very interesting dish. I don’t eat shrimp, but I do make it for my husband and daughter. It looks wonderful. I am enjoying your blog on how to grow good things to eat. Love it.

  9. What an interesting story, Norma about why the sauce has no ‘lobster’ in it. I think I would love black beans because I adore sun-dried black olives. Thanks for the tips too!

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Eva,
      Chinese fermented black beans can be used in many dishes, chicken, pork, beef, even vegetables. However, with its intense flavor can over power, better to use less and add if more is needed.

  10. I only just tried shrimp for the first time last year, but now that I have, I love it. That’s an interesting story behind the name… it’s funny how these things come to be.

  11. I have always wondered where the lobster was lol! This recipe looks great – I don’t eat Pork – would you recommend omitting it or subbing ground chicken? Thanks!

  12. I’ve always wondered why that dish had that name but no lobster! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  13. mac says:

    Ummmmm~~~ now I know the story, thanks!

  14. beti says:

    I’ve never really thought about that, I mean I’ve never tried it but I believed that it really had lobster, thanks for sharing

  15. I’ve never had that happen to me with Lobster, but I have been given 2 or three shrimps in a shrimp entree from a restaurant. But this shrimp in a lobster sauce look amazing. I wish I could make this right now. I know I would enjoy it

  16. Daphne says:

    This is one of my husband’s favorite dishes. I’ve never made it though. But he always gets it when he goes out.

  17. Diana says:

    I like shrimps. Look delicious.

  18. What a delightful recipe! I could enjoy this for lunch and dinner!
    🙂 Mandy

  19. Jeanette says:

    I haven’t made this dish in ages – going to make this for kids, I think they’d really enjoy it.

  20. Sound is different never heard but it looks very nice.I am also try this recipe.

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