Lobster Salad with Two Sauces

Isé Ebi no Sarada

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    2

Appears in

An American Taste of Japan

An American Taste of Japan

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1985

  • About

Homarus americanus, the lobsters that are native to the American North Atlantic coast, look quite different from the spiny, clawless creatures known as isé ebi that crawl along the Japanese coastline. Japanese isé ebi are incredibly expensive and contain very little, though usually sweet, meat. Their shells turn bright red as our lobsters’ do when cooked, and since red is the color of felicity in Japan, isé ebi are served at weddings and on other auspicious occasions.

Most Japanese professional and home cooks living in the New England area are immediately captivated by our hefty and comparatively low-priced Homarus americanus. Whenever a friend or relative visits from Japan, a lobster dinner makes it a memorable affair. I serve the lobster with two sauces, one a tart soy and the other a creamy but spicy mayonnaise. If you have some wasabi mayonnaise left over from another day, by all means use it. The version given here, though, makes use of a whole lime—juice and rind—and yields just enough for two portions.

Ingredients

  • 2 live lobsters, 1–1½ pounds each
  • 7 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons saké (Japanese rice wine)

Lemon-Soy Sauce

  • 1 small blemish-free lemon
  • 3–4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 small blemish-free lime
  • cup wasabi mayonnaise OR:
  • 2–2½ teaspoons juice from above lime
  • yolk from egg, at room temperature
  • pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons wasabi powder (fiery Japanese horseradish)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Garnish

  • 1 ounce (small bunch) tsumamina (radish sprouts)
  • 3 colossal pitted black olives

Method

Everyone agrees that when shopping for lobsters, you should choose the liveliest creatures you can find and cook them soon. There’s some controversy, though, on the subject of whether lobsters should be killed just prior to plunging them into boiling water, or whether the plunge itself is sufficient. The Japanese believe that the sudden hot bath tightens the flesh of their native isé ebi, a crustacean more similar to crayfish than to our Homarus americanus. The Japanese insert a sharp metal skewer just where the head meets the body to “relax” the lobster before cooking it. If you’re squeamish, or if your lobsters are so active as to make holding them while skewering them a problem, I think the boiling water alone is just fine.

Bring 6 quarts of water, the salt, and the rice wine to a rolling boil in a deep pot large enough to comfortably hold one of the lobsters. Plunge the lobster into the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. With tongs, remove the lobster to a colander to cool. Add another quart of fresh water to your pot and allow it to come to a rolling boil again before repeating the cooking process for the next lobster.

When both lobsters have been cooked and are cool enough to handle comfortably, extract the meat from the claws, legs, and body. I find it easiest to use a nutcracker or hammer to crack the claws and legs. I shred this meat by hand, checking to remove bits of cartilage and shell. I use kitchen shears to cut down both sides of the tail in order to remove the meat in a single piece. Slice this tail meat evenly into pieces about ¼ inch thick. I personally don’t care for the look of lobster meat arranged on the plate to resemble the original crustacean’s shape. For each lobster, I prefer to gently mound the odd pieces of claw and leg meat in the center of a large dinner plate. Cover the mound with sliced pieces of tail meat, laid domino style. At this point, the meat can be covered with clear plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours.

Slice the lemon in half through its middle at the thickest part. With the help of a grapefruit knife, carefully remove the fruit from the rinds. Squeeze the fruit and save 3 tablespoons of juice to mix with 3–4 tablespoonsof soy sauce. Trim the stem and flower ends of the lemon just enough to keep them from rocking back and forth. Divide the lemon juice and soy mixture between the two lemon cups and place one on each of the two plates of cooked lobster, to the right and just in front of the mounded meat.

Cut the lime in half through its middle at the thickest part and, with the help of a grapefruit knife, remove the fruit. If you’re making the mayonnaise fresh from this recipe, rather than using some left over from another use, squeeze the fruit and reserve the juice, discarding the pulp. Save the rinds and trim off just enough from the stem and flower ends of each to keep it from rocking. In a bowl, combine the egg yolk, salt, 1 teaspoon of lime juice, and horseradish powder. Beat until creamy and smooth. Dribble in a few drops of vegetable oil, continuing to beat the mixture. Add more oil, a few drops at a time, beating vigorously as the mixture thickens. After half the oil has been added, whisk in 1 teaspoon of lime juice. Beat in the remaining oil. Thin the mayonnaise to the consistency of lightly whipped cream with a few more drops of lime juice, if necessary. If you’re using leftover mayonnaise, is still prettiest when served in lime cups as described here. Divide the wasabi mayonnaise and fill both lime cups with it. Place one of these on each dinner plate, to the right of and slightly behind the lemon-soy sauce.

Rinse the radish sprouts under cold water and shake them dry. Divide the sprouts into six bundles. Slice the pitted olives to make three rings from each. Slip the rooted ends of one bundle of radish sprouts through a single ring and trim off the roots. Repeat to make six ringed bundles in all. Use three bundles to garnish each plate, placing them to the left of the mounded lobster meat. Chill the plates for 5–10 minutes before serving.