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Lobster Cantonese

(Debra Samuels for The Boston Globe)
August 26, 2009

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Serves 4

The classic method for Lobster Cantonese calls for chopping the raw crustacean - a scary proposition. Instead, start with a cooked lobster - unconventional, but perfect for squeamish cooks. This recipe is based on one from Irene Kuo’s “The Key to Chinese Cooking,’’ which does begin with live shellfish. Many markets will cook the lobsters for you. Once home, snap the claws and tails off the body. Stir-fry fermented black beans and ground pork with garlic and ginger. The liquid from the cooked lobster becomes part of the tasty sauce; the lobster in its shell protects the meat from turning chewy and still imparts flavor. Prepare ingredients in advance, line them up near the burner, and the cooking time is minimal.

3 cooked lobsters (1 1/4 pounds each)
Juices from lobsters plus chicken stock or water to make 1 1/4 cups
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or sake
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
3 scallions, chopped
1 piece (1 inch) fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons fermented black beans, soaked for 5 minutes, drained, and chopped
1/2 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Over a large bowl, snap off the claws and tails from the lobster (boil the bodies to make lobster stock for seafood stew for another day).

2. With a lobster cracker, hold a claw over the same bowl and crack down the middle, catching any liquid in the bowl. Twist off the base of the claw and crack in the middle. The meat should stay intact in the shell. Repeat with remaining claws. Hold a lobster tail over the bowl and twist off the base. Lay the tail on a cutting board and with a chef’s knife or cleaver, cut the tail into 3 pieces. Repeat with remaining tails.

3. Set a strainer over another bowl. Pour the lobster liquid through it. Measure and add enough stock or water to make 1 1/4 cups liquid. Add the rice wine or sake and pepper.

4. Heat a large wok or deep skillet over high heat for 30 seconds. Add the oil and when it is hot, add the scallions, ginger, garlic, and black beans. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the pork and stir-fry 2 minutes or until the pork loses its pink color.

5. Add the lobster liquid mixture. Bring to a boil. Add the lobster pieces, and cook, tossing with a wide spatula, until lobster is coated with sauce. Cover and continue cooking for 2 minutes.

6. Lower the heat to medium. Stir the cornstarch mixture. Drizzle it over the lobster mixture. Add the sesame oil and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until the sauce thickens.

7. Pour the eggs into the pan in a circular motion. Cook, stirring gently, for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 1 minute more. Debra Samuels