Classic Prawns with Lobster Sauce

This was perhaps the most popular dish in my uncle’s restaurant. We used to laugh in the kitchen because the sauce contains no lobster. In fact, to improve the profits from the dish, we were instructed to cut down on the prawns and to fill up the dish with less expensive minced pork and egg. It was nevertheless delicious because it combined aromatic and pungent black beans, garlic and ginger – an aroma that always evokes memories of good food and eating. There may appear to be a lot of ingredients, but nothing is difficult to prepare; just get everything lined up and you’ll find this is a relatively simple dish to do at home.

Ingredients

  • 450 g (1 lb) raw king or tiger prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 240 ml (8 fl oz) groundnut oil or 480 ml (16 fl oz)
  • water (see variation)

For the Sauce

  • tablespoons groundnut oil
  • tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • tablespoons coarsely chopped black beans
  • 225 g (8 oz) fatty ground pork
  • tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions, to garnish

Method

Rinse the prawns in cold water and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Mix the prawns with the egg white, cornflour, salt, sesame oil and pepper. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Heat a wok until it is very hot and then drizzle in the groundnut oil. When the oil is very hot, remove the wok from the heat and immediately toss in the prawns, stirring vigorously to keep them from sticking. As soon as the prawns turn white, in about 2 minutes, quickly drain them in a stainless steel colander set in a bowl. Discard the oil.

Reheat the wok or heat a large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the tablespoons of groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, toss in the ginger, garlic and black beans and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Then dump in the minced pork, breaking it up, and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes. Now toss in the rest of the sauce ingredients, except the cornflour mixture and garnish. Bring the sauce to the boil, stir in the cornflour to thicken, then return the prawns to the wok and reheat thoroughly. Stir-fry everything for 1 minute. Now pour in the beaten egg in a steady stream, stirring slowly all the while. When the egg has barely set, remove the wok from the heat. Pour the contents onto a warm serving platter, garnish with the spring onions and serve at once.

Variation

If you choose to use water instead of oil, bring it to the boil in a saucepan. Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately add the prawns, stirring vigorously to keep them from sticking. When the prawns turn white, after about 2 minutes, quickly drain them in a stainless steel colander set in a bowl. Discard the water.