Shrimp with lobster sauce (because I love Chinese takeout)

No surprise, I love Chinese food.  It's part of who I am, after all.  I was born in Hong Kong and lived there for the first eight years of my life until my family and I moved to the States (to Brooklyn, to be exact). Growing up, I always felt so lucky to have another heritage, to know another culture. Specifically, I'm thankful to have inside knowledge of the delicious food of my background because, for me, it always comes down to food!

I love authentic Chinese food and growing up, my grandfather was somewhat of a professional home cook and made all types of dishes that I can't even name.  Somehow, he made amazing food using the most affordable ingredients.  He made dumplings, dim sum, noodles, dessert soups, and everything in between.  I don't think I realized how lucky I was.  My mother is a good cook, too.  I was never hungry for long.  
Somewhat ironically, I also adore Chinese-American food or what I think of as "Chinese takeout". They're dishes I never ate (or heard of) as a child.  Yet the appeal is very strong.  I can't resist taking a peek at the Chinese-American offerings at a mall food court, and neither can my mother.  I think the sweetness of many of those dishes has something to do with the appeal. The fact that there's usually a good amount of spice and a tendency for these dishes to be fried or bathed in sauce might also have something to do with it.

So you can imagine that when I heard about The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, I had to check it out!  I quickly bought myself a copy after seeing lots of easy recipes for dishes I'd like to make at home. Most of them call on a familiar rotation of Chinese cooking pantry items, many of which I already have.  

I don't know if you feel the same way but I find myself with less and less desire to eat out lately. Instead, I'm drawn to the kitchen to cook and to the dining room table to eat with my family.  Part of the reason for that is I've learned that cooking really is key to eating better and healthier.  I want to feel good after eating instead of feeling weighed down like I often do when eating out. And eating at home is all the better and more fun when I can make restaurant-favorites that are far lighter and just as tasty, if not more so, than what we'd order for takeout.
This dish is an example of that.  Shrimp with lobster sauce is one of those Chinese takeout dishes that I love.  It's the first thing I made from the book and I've made it about four times now so I thought I'd share it here.  The thing is, I love a good sauce!  This one is not sweet (I use enough sugar for baking so I try to limit it in savory cooking) and I like that it's not a rich, heavy brown sauce that comes with many typical Chinese takeout dishes with protein.  As you probably well know, there's no lobster in this dish.  The name has something to do with the fact that the sauce resembles a kind that's used to serve over stir-fry lobster at Cantonese restaurants.  

I absolutely love shrimp as an adult but funny enough, I didn't like it much at all as a child.  It showed up fairly often on our dinner table and for some reason, I always remember my mother serving stir-fried shrimp with celery...and I hated celery as a kid!  Celery and I have become friends now (though I still dislike it raw) but it was a major turn-off for me then and I associated shrimp with it.
There's no celery in sight in this dish but I did add peas.  I keep several bags of petite peas in the freezer and toss it into many things I cook, and I did that here.  It's a good way to bulk up the dish a bit, too.  

The recipe reminded me that some versions of shrimp with lobster sauce contain fermented black beans and ground pork.  It's good that way, too - I particularly like the ground pork - but I left both of those ingredients out to keep the dish simple and light.  I do throw in an extra egg and make a little extra sauce.  Just make sure you have plenty of rice to soak it all up with!  I love a chewy, nutty brown rice with this.  My husband and I have become big fans of this for dinner.  It's easy and quick to make - if you have shrimp and some classic Chinese pantry ingredients on hand, you're in business!  If you 're a fan of this classic Chinese-American dish like we are, I hope you give it a try for yourself.  It just might end up being a part of your regular dinner rotation since it's that easy and that tasty!


I made a few adjustments to the original recipe from The Chinese Takeout Cookbook.  As I mentioned, I eliminated the Chinese fermented black beans. It's a fairly common ingredient in Chinese cooking and they do add a ton of flavor to seafood and meat dishes but it probably isn't something most of us have around.  So to keep things simple, and since I also prefer this dish with a milder flavor, I skip the black beans.

You could also add half a pound of ground pork into this dish.  That's nice for us carnivores and makes for a heartier dish but I also leave it out to keep it light and again, simple.

On the flip side, I added peas and used 2 eggs instead of 1.  I also make a bit more sauce just to make sure I have enough!

When it comes to the shrimp, I've used the spectrum between jumbo tiger shrimp to large shrimp right out of the bag from my freezer.  Obviously, the better quality the ingredients, the better the end product, but it's all good.  I'm a big fan of easy-peel shrimp and keep a bag in my freezer at all times and I don't hesitate to use that here.
Just ladle over a nice bowl of warm rice!
As far as the other part of the equation, the sauce, it starts with chicken stock and it's thickened with a cornstarch slurry.  The sauce is flavored with garlic and ginger, as well as soy sauce, oyster sauce, and Chinese rice wine.  I use oyster sauce all the time in my stir-fry.  I consider it my "secret ingredient" because when mixed with a cornstarch slurry, I've essentially got a flavorful sauce that needs little else.  Until I recently started following actual recipes for these Chinese dishes though, I never used Chinese rice wine, or Shaoxing wine, before (my mother never did either)!  The closest substitute is dry sherry but it's worth the $4 investment for a bottle of Chinese rice wine (look for the red labeled bottles) because it'll last you a long time and is a recurring ingredient in many Chinese takeout recipes.

Here's the recipe I use after my tweaks - hope you give it a try!

Recipe

Shrimp with Lobster Sauce
Adapted from The Chinese Takeout Cookbook

2/3 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing wine) or dry sherry
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
2 tablespoons canola, vegetable, or peanut oil
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (from about a 1/2 inch knob)
3/4 cup frozen peas, defrosted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Black or white pepper, for seasoning
Rice, for serving

In a measuring cup, stir together the chicken stock, soy sauce, rice wine, and oyster sauce.  Set aside with the cornstarch mixture.

Heat a large nonstick skillet (or wok) over medium high heat with about a tablespoon of oil.  Add shrimp and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until shrimp is just beginning to curl and turn orange in color but are not completely cooked through.  Remove shrimp to a plate and set aside.

Add remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, stir in garlic and ginger and cook for 20-30 seconds until fragrant.  Stir in the chicken stock mixture, followed by the cornstarch slurry.  Bring to a simmer, gently stirring the sauce to avoid clumps.  Let sauce thicken for one minute.  Add the peas and shrimp into the pan.  Slowly pour in the beaten eggs while gently stirring so that the egg feathers into the sauce.  Season with pepper, to taste.  Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy immediately with plenty of rice!




  


50 comments:

  1. Those prawns look so succulent and flavoursome!

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  2. I know what you mean! I have a soft spot for honey king prawns and fried rice. This looks like a fabulously tasty dish! :D

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    1. Oh yes, I could do with some honey king prawns and fried rice, too! Yum

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  3. This looks delicious, Monica! And the fact that you've remade it 4 times tells me it's definitely worth trying!

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    1. It's so easy to make so that's part of the appeal, Marie. We can now have it whenever we have the craving. : )

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  4. I love chinese food and that book sounds good. Monica, this dish looks so so yummy and we are big fans of prawns, might try this one today itself.

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    1. Hi Asha - the recipes are easy and doesn't call for a ton of ingredients. I've tried a few things so far - all been good though some are not exactly worth following a recipe for. This is one of my favorites.

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  5. Chinese food is loved around the world and each culture "tweaks" it to make it there own. I have had "Chinese" food in a number of countries and it is always interestingly different! :) Monica, have you read "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles" by Jennifer 8. Lee? I loved this book. It is the most facinating look at the history of Chinese food/take-out in America. I learned so much. I really think you would enjoy it, if you haven't yet read it. :) I have never liked sweet meat, so the sweet Chinese-American take-out sauces never appealed to me (though sweet and sour or sesame chicken are favorites with the rest of my family). Anything with "brown sauce" or lobster sauce has always been my go-to take-out choice. :) I am excited to find this cookbook and to try this recipe! Thanks!

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    1. So true, Wendy! I have not read or heard of that book - thank you so much for pointing it out! I'll be sure to get my hands on it and read it. I love reading anything with a food theme, as you can imagine!

      It's a good thing you don't like too much sweetness in your Chinese takeout! I try to stick with the more basic stuff and I always enjoy brown sauce and lobster sauce...it's kind of like egg drop soup! : ) I don't buy as many cookbooks as I'd like but this one had a lot of recipes that I like in one place. Do check it out for yourself! Thanks for stopping by!

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    2. Hi again Wendy - I checked the book out of the library and read it! Boy, I learned a whole lot!! It was very interesting and, honestly, I had no idea about most of the history she talks about. The whole fortune cookie focus is interesting - when we were in SF over the summer, the hotel had the best tasting ones in the lobby, and now I know all about the makings of that! What a lot of research went into the book and I liked the whole international perspective. Thanks for recommending it to me. I truly appreciate it!

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  6. This looks so good Monica! I love Chinese takeout! You're very lucky to have a Grandfather and Mother who cooked well when you were growing up. Dumplings, dim sum and noodles --all my favorite food! I love this shrimp dish and the gravy. Give me a big bowl of rice and I'm a happy camper! Have a great week! :)

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    1. Yes...I ate well as a kid and we eat at my mother's all the time now, too. When I was younger, I used to eat bowls of rice with dinner but I've (unfortunately) cut down a lot - BUT this dish absolutely demands rice alongside!

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  7. There is no second opinion, cooking is the key to eat healthier. And you know what, Monica I love Chinese food, though I sometimes tweak and twist to adjust to our taste buds. This shrimp dish looks marvelous and like that special touch you have given to the sauce by adding egg at the end. I have only seen egg feathers in egg drop soup.

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    1. Very true...cook and eating at home is a huge part of a healthier diet. And it's great to be able to make your own twist and adjust the spices, etc. to create what you and your family want.

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  8. We rarely eat out anymore either. One, I feel better about the food I make at home and two, a lot of the times I've started to feel kinda sick after eating out (probably all the fat/salt/sugar or whatever it is!). My husband would love this dish. I have a weird aversion to seafood (well, for the most part) but I feel like sometimes I should make it for him!

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    1. We are the same way in the last year or so. I used to love eating out and cooked maybe 3 -4x max a week - the rest we'd order in or eat out. But recently, I just find it's so much more satisfying and "better" to stay in. I don't like feeling weigh down after eating out and feeling as though I have to "watch" the next few meals to balance it out or lighten up. It's nice to eat at home and make what you want and eat healthier - while leaving room for some chocolate cake, of course! ; )

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  9. I also LOVE Chinese food! It's so awesome that you made it at home! I like that you used peas and skipped the black beans.

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    1. Thanks, Ashley. I love peas in this and many things - so easy and convenient! The black beans changes the whole thing - not easy to get and I definitely prefer this dish on the lighter side.

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  10. I love Chinese takeout, it is one of my guilty pleasures. Your shrimp and pea dish looks delicious!

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    1. I hear you. There's a time and place for everything. Making some of these things at home is a great way to "indulge" more often.

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  11. This looks soooo good! I will definitely be trying this! I agree with you-I definitely prefer eating homemade food at home instead of going out...it's so much better!

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    1. I hope you give it a try, Dawn! I plan to make it often as well.

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  12. I love chinese food but prefer the more authentic kind to the Americanized version. I'm so jealous of all the homemade chinese food you've had in your lifetime! :) Love that you made this easier for those of us without some of the more exotic ingredients in our pantries. This sounds amazing...now if I can just convince my husband to eat shrimp ;)

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    1. I would definitely go authentic far more often than the Americanized version but some of those dishes *are* good! : ) I'm glad I love shrimp and seafood a lot more now than I did as a kid.

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  13. These shrimp look absolutely delicious!

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  14. Oh goodness, yes! I love Chinese takeout but it makes me feel guilty every single time so I love being able to make it at home! This is a great recipe that I will be trying soon! I can't wait!

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    1. I hate feeling guilt after eating...I know what you mean! I'm excited you might try this. Hope you like it!

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  15. Doubt if I have ever encountered a takeout dish looking so nice like this. And I believe it is a smart idea to skip the fermented black beans here : ).

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    1. Thank you - you're the expert so I'm thrilled if you approve! The fermented beans would really change the flavor profile, wouldn't it...and I think we're going for clean and light with the shrimp.

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  16. This looks unbelievable! Great post!!

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  17. This shrimp dish looks delicious, so flavorful...everything that I am looking in a meal.
    Thanks for the recipe Monica...hope you are having a lovely week :D

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    1. Thanks, Juliana. Appreciate your comment.

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  18. I have ZERO desire to eat takeout ever again...but lots of desire to recreate it at home! Definitely need to check out this cookbook! I used to work with a woman who was Chinese and she took me to an authentic Chinese restaurant once...what a difference. It's crazy how disparate the two are!

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    1. True - there's a huge difference between "authentic" Chinese food and the takeout type. Time and place for everything but nothing beats healthier home cooking, I think! : )

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  19. Monica, this looks SO mouthwatering! I love a good twist on take-out at home and you NAILED it, girl. I've gotta make this for myself (and just myself, hehee) one night.

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    1. Thank you, Georgia! You should absolutely make yourself a big plate of this - I need to do that!! : )

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  20. Wow, this literally looks delicious!!! I am so hungry haha (:

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    1. Hunger-inducing is a very nice compliment for a food blog. Thanks, Monica!

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  21. I definitely enjoy the dishes my MIL makes over some of the takeout stuff I grew up with. Sometimes she takes the restaurant dishes and makes them a bit healthier (and usually tastier!) at home. This looks great! Oh, and remember those bamboo/banana leaf things with sticky rice we couldn't remember the name for? I think it's "zong". :)

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    1. I hear you! I remember what you're talking about...my mom makes them and they are really good. I know what we call them in Chinese (Cantonese) but I don't know what they're called (if anything!) in English since I've never seen it on a menu or heard anyone mention it in English!

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  22. Monica, this looks so good and tasty! Chinese food is always great, but I rarely try making my own. I'll have to save this recipe, shrimp with lobster sauce is also one of my favorites :)

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    1. Hi Tiffany - I hope you make this one day! It's so good and easy...I've been wondering why I never tried to make more restaurant faves at home before. : )

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  23. I can never pass up a good story-fry, especially one that is as delicious as this!

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    1. Same her, Kiran - love a good stir-fry. Thanks!

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  24. me too with the early love of chinese cuisine! although i didn't ever live in Hong Kong, i was lucky enough to be best friends with a girl who's parents were from Indonesia, and were also excellent cooks. It was all chinese food all the time in their house, and i was blessed to spend quite a few evenings being exposed to authentic meals most people don't get to have regularly. My continuing obsession with chinese food (and yes, also chinese takeout) is due to those early years, i imagine. this looks beautiful! and i'm adding this cookbook to my library rental list...i hope they have it. Oddly, I just requested a fuchsia dunlop asian cookbook from there that needs to be picked up! twin brains. :)

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    1. So strange...I thought I replied to this ages ago! Anyway...thanks for the comment, Shannon! I'm glad you had such a great friend who exposed you to amazing food. We should all be so lucky! I checked this particular cookbook out at the library too (you know I'm a frequent visitor there...) and I wanted to buy it since it had a lot of simple recipes that I'd like to have around. I've tried several now..it's been fun!

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  25. Knives at the dinner table are also considered to be a sign of very poor taste by those who embrace Confucianist beliefs. Phoenix Chinese Restaurant

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