Shrimp with lobster sauce is a simple dish that you can make at home. With a few shortcuts, this simple recipe gets easier and accommodates people who don’t eat pork (though I include instructions on how to make it the traditional way too). Make extra because you’ll want leftovers for the next day.
Every Christmas, my dad organizes the company holiday party at one of the nicer Chinese restaurants in town. There’s always Peking duck with the thin pancakes, a few chicken, beef, and pork dishes, accompanied by an assortment of stir-fried vegetables. The crowning moment of the feast is the lobster dish with the aromatic ginger and leek sauce.
Since I love seafood, you’d think I would be drooling over the springy lobster tail. Instead, I make a beeline for the noodles nestled under the lobster pieces. I pile my bowl high with noodles and spoon over a generous helping of the sauce. Then I savor the chewy texture of the noodles coupled with the umami-packed seafood sauce in blissful silence.
It’s no wonder that shrimp with lobster sauce is a favorite at local Chinese restaurants. Lucky for you, it’s an easy dish to make at home. This recipe delivers it with a healthier spin.
Why this shrimp with lobster sauce recipe is easy
There are many shrimp with lobster sauce recipes that focus on the “authentic” P.F. Chang’s taste. Those recipes walk you through how to make the dish at home so it tastes like the takeout version from your local Chinese restaurant.
My recipe is the opposite of those recipes. Yes, we want a tasty result. But this non-traditional approach makes your cooking experience a lot easier.
- No ground pork
- No fermented black beans
- Skip velveting the shrimp
- Add the egg without worrying about making long egg strands
Isn’t shrimp with lobster sauce already an adulterated dish? Might as well take it one step further with a few shortcuts. And here’s why. You can make this recipe easier and faster by skipping these complexities while still delivering a fragrant and savory shrimp dish that’ll charm your taste buds.
And if you feel strongly about including the pork, fermented black beans, and egg strands, I’ll give you tips on how to incorporate those elements later.
Why is it called shrimp with lobster sauce?
This dish is the “poor man’s” substitute of a traditional Cantonese lobster dish (evidently, not so poor because shrimp ain’t cheap either). High-end Cantonese restaurants still serve the original lobster dish that this shrimp version is based on.
You can order the traditional lobster dish with noodles (yi mein). The waiter picks a live lobster from one of the fish tanks to present to your table. You approve of the waiter’s pick, and 20 minutes later, the steaming lobster, smothered in lobster sauce and Chinese leeks, arrives at your table.
The shrimp version is the budget-friendly adaptation of this lobster dish. It’s less common in Chinese restaurants in New Zealand so I chalk it up to another Chinese American invention, like fortune cookies.
What vegetables can you add?
Most Chinese restaurants cook frozen peas as the vegetable served with the shrimp. But I wanted more vegetable heft in my version so I replaced the frozen peas with Shanghai bok choy.
Here are substitute vegetable that could work well with this shrimp dish (add a handful):
- Frozen edamame
- Frozen corn
- Frozen vegetable mix (peas, beans, carrots, corn)
- Snow peas
- Baby corn (from a can)
- Baby spinach
- Garden cress
NOTE: Add tender vegetables that cook quickly or are already cooked, like frozen peas or baby spinach (even snow peas are borderline). This helps minimizing the risk of overcooking the shrimp. If you plan to use hardy vegetables, add them only if they’re already cooked.
How to make traditional shrimp with lobster sauce
If you want the version that’s closest to what you’d find at your local Chinese restaurant, you can follow Ruth Reichl’s recipe where you incorporate 1/2 lb/225g of ground pork and 1 tablespoon of fermented black beans into the dish. Here are the additional steps:
- After setting up the shrimp to marinate, soak the tablespoon of fermented black beans in water for a few minutes to hydrate them. Once they look plump, drain them and chop the beans finely.
- After adding the aromatics (chopped green onion and garlic) to the hot oil, add the ground pork and stir continuously to cook. Once the ground pork begins to lose its pink color, add the shrimp with the marinade. Continue cooking following the rest of the recipe steps.
How to substitute ingredients
Now that I live in Boulder, I appreciate how hard it can be to find exotic ingredients in smaller cities, even if they’re dotted with conventional grocery stores. I already simplified this recipe for a kitchen that has limited access to Chinese ingredients (for example, no Chinese leeks). Here are more ways to substitute the ingredients if you can’t find or don’t want to buy these ingredients only to use them once or twice:
- Shaoxing wine: Replace with rice wine or dry sherry. Worst case, you can replace with a dry white wine like Chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc.
- Cornstarch: Substitute with different types of starches like potato or tapioca starch. This One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry gives you an idea of how to substitute.
- White pepper: Replace it with black pepper. Crushing whole peppercorns in a mortar and pestle is optional. You can use ground pepper too.
- Red pepper flakes: There’s barely any heat with the tiny amount but if you’re sensitive to spice, skip it.
- Chicken broth: Replace with vegetable stock or seafood broth. I would avoid any strongly flavored, heavy broths like beef stock because it might mask the delicate seafood flavors from the shrimp.
- Soy sauce: Here are ideas for substituting soy sauce.
WARNING: Making a lot of substitutes will make the dish taste very different from what you’d get at a restaurant.
Tips for success
- If you prefer very tender shrimp: It’s possible to overcook the shrimp if you’re not careful or quick. If you’re concerned about overcooked, rubbery shrimp, you can marinate the shrimp in soy sauce. Add the Shaoxing wine to the pan after cooking the aromatics to give the alcohol a chance to evaporate.
Then add the shrimp after the vegetables and before adding the cornstarch slurry. This minimizes the amount of time you cook the shrimp (it might be a good strategy if you’re slower cooking this dish the first time).
- The right sauce texture and consistency: After you add the cornstarch slurry and the liquid simmers, you’re looking for a sauce that can coat the back of a spoon without being gloopy or clumpy.
- If you’re finding the sauce is too thin: Add another tablespoon of cornstarch and 1/2 tablespoon of water to make more cornstarch slurry. Keep adding until you get the thickness you’re looking for. Give the cornstarch slurry a chance to go from milky white to clear before you add more. Once the cornstarch turns clear, it’s fully cooked and won’t thicken further.
- If you’re finding the sauce is too thick: If it’s gloopy, add a tablespoon of chicken broth at a time until the sauce thins out.
How to scale the recipe
You can double or triple the ingredients without much issue. Just make sure you don’t over cook the shrimp. If you’re concerned about the greater quantity of bok choy taking longer to cook, you can replace it with frozen peas. You can add the shrimp just before the eggs. Check out the tips for success for details.
How to serve the shrimp
Because this dish produces a lot of thick “lobster” sauce, I like to serve the shrimp with the gravy over steamed Jasmine rice or over noodles. It goes well with wonton noodles. You could serve it on top of egg fried rice (skip the tofu).
For a lower carb option, you can eat it without rice or noodles and serve it alongside plenty of other stir-fried dishes.
TIP: I like to add garlic chili sauce if I’m serving it with wonton noodles.
Cantonese shrimp with lobster sauce and Shanghai bok choy
- Mixing Bowl
- Chopping Board
- 12.5 oz. (350 g) Shrimp, deveined and shelled, frozen
- 2 large Eggs
- ½ lb. (227 g) Shanghai bok choy, about 5 medium or large heads
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Shaoxing rice wine
- 2 tablespoon (30 ml) Light soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon (2 g) sugar
- 3 tablespoon (45 g) Cornstarch, more if the gravy doesn't come together
- 2 cups (473 ml) Chicken broth
- ½ teaspoon (2 ml) Sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon (2 g) Red Pepper Flakes
- ½ teaspoon (2 g) White pepper, ground, substitute with black pepper
Prepare the ingredients
- Gather the ingredients.
- Place the frozen shrimp in a bowl of lukewarm water to defrost them (if they're still frozen). Work on preparing the remaining ingredients while you wait for the shrimp to thaw.
- Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and discard the shells. Beat the egg whites and yolks until mixed. Set aside.
- Wash the Shanghai bok choy and separate each leaf from the stalk until you get to the heart of the bok choy. Discard the tough bottom of the stalk.
- Once the shrimp has thawed, drain the water from the shrimp. Add the marinade ingredients (Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, and sugar) to the shrimp and set aside.
- Add 2 tablespoons of water to the cornstarch to create a slurry. Set aside.
Begin stir frying
- Add the oil to the pan on medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chopped green onion and minced garlic. Stir immediately to avoid burning the aromatics. Cook for 30 seconds for the garlic to turn golden.
- Add the shrimp with the marinade to the hot pan. Add the minced ginger. Stir to mix.
- Add the chicken broth to the shrimp in the pan.
- Add the Shanghai bok choy to the pan.
- Stir the cornstarch slurry to mix any cornstarch that settled at the bottom of the bowl. When you begin to see bubbles around the edges of the pan, add the cornstarch slurry. Mix the cornstarch slurry into the sauce.The cornstarch slurry will turn the sauce opaque. Allow the cornstarch slurry to cook until it transforms from milky white to clear. The sauce should have a gravy-like texture and return to its original reddish brown color. This is the lobster sauce. The sauce is ready when it coats the back of a spoon without being gloopy. If the sauce is too thick, add more chicken broth. If the sauce is too thin, add more cornstarch slurry.
- Pour the beaten eggs into the sauce in a thin stream slowly with one hand while stirring the sauce in the pan continuously with your other hand. Turn off the heat. Keep stirring until the egg is cooked through. The eggs should continue cooking with the residual heat.
- The shrimp are ready to eat. Serve them with sliced green onion and optionally on top of rice or noodles. Enjoy this easy shrimp with lobster sauce!
Can you make this in advance?
Yes, this shrimp dish stores well and making it in advance won’t negatively impact the texture or flavors.
How to store leftovers and reheat the shrimp
Leftover shrimp can be stored with the sauce in a sealed container once it has cooled. Keep it refrigerated and eat within 3 days. Reheat it in the microwave, and serve over freshly steamed rice or noodles.
Can you freeze it?
I would avoid freezing the shrimp, especially if you’re using shrimp that was previously frozen. The sauce isn’t designed for freezing, and the shrimp might lose its springy texture. You can prepare extra shrimp with lobster sauce and keep the leftovers refrigerated instead of freezing.
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