There’s a great scene in “Midnight Run” – one of the most underrated movie comedies – where the character Jonathan Mardukas, played by a hilariously deadpan Charles Grodin, interrogates a local bar owner. Here’s the exchange:
Jonathan Mardukas: What’s the name of this establishment?
Red: Red’s Corner Bar.
Jonathan Mardukas: Are you Red?
Jonathan Mardukas: Do you dye your hair?
Jonathan Mardukas: Why do they call you Red?
Red: It’s short for Redwood. My last name’s Wood.
Jonathan Mardukas: What’s your first name?
I bring up that scene because I imagine if Mardukas saw shrimp with lobster sauce at a Chinese restaurant, the conversation would veer in a similar direction:
Jonathan Mardukas: What’s the name of this dish?
Server: Shrimp in lobster sauce.
Jonathan Mardukas: Where’s the lobster?
Server: There is none.
Jonathan Mardukas: Why is it called lobster sauce?
Server: It’s named after a Cantonese-style sauce that’s served with lobster.
Jonathan Mardukas: What’s in the sauce?
That’s essentially what you need to know about the sauce in shrimp in lobster sauce. No lobster, and flavored primarily by four key ingredients: ground pork, garlic, ginger and salted black beans. (I suppose you could omit the pork, but personally, I can’t imagine the sauce without it.)
I sort of wing the ingredient amounts, so feel free to adjust according to your taste:
1 lb shrimp
2 tsp sherry
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp cornstarch
¼ cup – ½ cup ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tbsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp salted black beans, minced (also called fermented black beans in Asian grocery stores)
1 cup water
It’s really easy – marinate the shrimp in the sherry and 1 tbsp cornstarch and set aside for a few minutes.
Marinate the ground pork with the soy sauce and set that aside for a few minutes.
Mince up your garlic, ginger and black beans.
Heat up a tbsp of oil in a wok, and cook the shrimp until they’re just opaque. Remove them.
Add the pork into the work along with the garlic, ginger and black beans. Cook for about a minute, then pour in at least a cup of water – more if you want to end up with extra sauce.
(Note: I recommend using water and not stock. The black beans and soy sauce provide enough salt. Adding stock would kill the sauce and turn it super salty.)
Bring the sauce up to a boil. Prepare a slurry of 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water, and add that in. Give it a stir.
Add the shrimp back into the wok. Beat the egg and drizzle it in. The egg is also going to help thicken the sauce. What you’ll end up with should be somewhat thick, but not a sludge. You can always add more water to thin it out.
Give the whole thing several good stirs. I didn’t have any, but you can sprinkle in chopped scallions at this point if you want.
There aren’t many sauces that go better with rice than lobster sauce, so have mounds and mounds of rice on hand.
And that’s shrimp in lobster sauce — a delicious misnomer of a dish that would surely confuse Jonathan Mardukas.