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Chinese comfort food: Shrimp with lobster sauce
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Chinese comfort food: Shrimp with lobster sauce

With our June trip to France quickly followed by a scheduled close encounter with the medical system, I haven't been spending much time in the kitchen this summer.

So, when convalescence allowed my return to pots and pans and cookbooks, what do you suppose was the first thing I craved? Chinese comfort food! And a Cantonese-American tradition at that.

Shrimp with lobster sauce is a simple, flavorful dish that has become one of our standards. Despite the name, there's no lobster in it; rather, it substitutes shrimp in the classic Lobster Cantonese, a dish loaded with black beans and garlic, given body with a bit of chopped pork and finished with egg-drop scrambles. In a slight variation on the theme, I used freshwater rock shrimp in place of the usual crustaceans, simply because the fish shop had a really good-looking batch of them in fresh that day.

This version evolved over the years from a recipe in an old (1976), well-thumbed cookbook favorite, the long-out-of-print "Gourmet Chinese Regional Cookbook" by Calvin B. T. Lee and Audrey Evans Lee.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

10 ounces shrimp
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
8 ounces lean pork
2 large cloves garlic
1 thick slice fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fermented black beans with garlic (available at Asian markets)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons Sherry
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg
2 green onions


1. Shell the shrimp, toss with the lemon or lime juice, and set aside. (You can use pre-shelled or even frozen shrimp if you like, but I find that using freshly shelled shrimp pays off in flavor.) Chop the pork into small bits (or grind it coarsely in food processor or meat grinder).

2. Chop the garlic and ginger fine and stir them into the black beans with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce to make a seasoning mix. Don't skimp on the garlic, as its flavor is a keynote of this dish. Stir the other tablespoon of soy sauce, the Sherry and the sugar into the chicken broth and set aside. Dissolve the cornstarch in enough water to make a thin batter. Break the egg into a small bowl and whip it lightly with a fork. Slice the green onions and set aside.

3. Heat a wok or saute pan until very hot, put in the peanut oil and swish it around until the surface is covered and the oil is hot. Put in the black-bean mix and stir-fry quickly until the garlic and ginger bits start to brown slightly. Add the pork and stir-fry until it loses its raw color. Then add the shrimp, stir for a moment, and put in the broth mix. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and let it all cook together for a minute or two until the shrimp are just cooked through.

4. Add the cornstarch mix, stirring it in a little at a time, using only as much as you need to thicken the sauce. Pour the egg over the dish in a thin stream, remove from heat, and cover for a minute or two, just long enough for the heat of the sauce to cook the egg into light scrambles. Garnish with the chopped green onions and serve with hot rice and a salad.

MATCHING WINE: A very good Oregon white, an Elk Cove Vineyards 2000 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, made a stunning match with this dish. The ripe, flavorful wine married well with the shrimp without being overwhelmed by the bold Asian flavors of ginger, garlic and black beans.

Let us hear from you!

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Thursday, July 18, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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