People forever ask me how it came to be that some guy from Brooklyn wound up opening the first multi-Asian (people now say “Pan-Asian”) restaurant in the hemisphere—at least as our diligent searching has been able to determine.– Jerry Weinburg
First, my ex-wife and business partner, Ginger Hobbs, bought me a wok in the early seventies, and a couple of good cookbooks, too.
Second, I was lucky to have been born in Brooklyn and was raised in the ‘50s. Not that we got such fantastic food—it was nothing compared to what New Yorkers began to find available in the late ‘60s, early ’70s.
Still, we were able to get, among other truly wonderful dishes, Lobster Cantonese and Shrimp with Lobster Sauce (which, of course, contains no lobster—it’s simply and complexly the same sauce used for Lobster Cantonese).
This recipe is an amalgam of what Florence Linn wrote of in several books and tips she gave me in class, and methods I developed. (Ms. Lin pretty much said that if it doesn’t have pork and black beans, it isn’t real Shrimp with Lobster Sauce.)
Once in my late teens I was fired from a job into a recession, and in three weeks I ate just two or three apples and one sandwich—as the late New York City D.J. William B. Williams once said, “The easiest way to lose weight is—lose your job.” Obviously this incident had a major impact on me philosophically—I still fear not having food.
Those three weeks I dreamed of one particular dish—Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. And a look at the nourishing ingredients below will tell you why. Finally, when I got a job again, I took an advance and went to a Chinese restaurant on Tarrytown Road in White Plains and ordered this dish.
It was as good, maybe better than I had fantasized. I’ve never had a better version than the one Ms. Lin taught me.
- 20 shrimp (decent size – may be done with sliced catfish)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup oil
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 1¼ Tablespoons dry sherry or bourbon
- pinch white pepper (freshly ground)
- 2 teaspoons fermented black beans (rinsed and chopped)
- 2 to 3 scallions chopped
- 1 cup chicken stock (rich)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons garlic (finely minced)
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch (dissolved in 3 Tablespoons cold chicken stock)
- ¼ pound ground pork or turkey (not too lean)
- 1 Tablespoon light soy (or fish sauce)
- 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
- Pick over black beans, remove all possible small pebbles.
- Clean and shell the shrimps, rinsing under cold water. Pat dry.
- Add oil to wok or large skillet. Add shrimps and stir fry for about a minute (till pink). Stir in sherry. Stir and keep in bowl, below, with soy sauce, etc.
- Have pork (or turkey) ready. In a small bowl combine garlic and black beans. In another small, warm bowl combine soy or fish sauce, salt, sugar, scallions, and the cooked shrimps.
- Add oil to remaining oil in pan to equal about 2 Tbsp. Heat, add garlic and black beans—smell that aroma!—stir a few seconds and add pork. Stir fry, breaking up meat till it’s lost all pinkness.
- Add soy and shrimps. Pour in stock, bring to boil.
- Stir the cornstarch to mix well, add to wok, and stir till the dish pretty quickly thickens and becomes clear. Turn heat to moderate simmer stirring, pour in eggs in a stream, moving mixture around with stirrer so eggs become fully incorporated with dish. Scoop onto a warm platter and serve with lots of white or jasmine rice—not brown.