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Chinese lobster sauce

[moved from Boston Board]

I love Boston style lobster sauce. Does anyone have a recipe for the dark style lobster sauce that is unique to the Boston area? I have tried many but none that comes out like the Boston style sauce. What makes it so dark?

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  1. Could be the addition of black beans...many Chinese cookbooks offer this option to the White/eggy lobster sauce...in fact this is the kind one mostlly finds here in S.F.

    1. You might have better luck on the Boston board where people will be familar with the dish. I don't know of a dark one.

      1. Actually, the term "lobster sauce" is a bit misleading. It is the sauce customarily used with Lobster Cantonese...stir fried with onions, peppers and black bean sauce. Often ground pork is used as additional flavoring (sometimes Italian sausage). I have never seen dark sauce on Chinese lobster in the West, but I'll bet some soy will darken your "lobster sauce". Especially the thick mushroon soy used in Thai cooking.

        1 Reply
        1. re: OldTimer

          In the New York area, Lobster Sauce did not contain black beans it was a purer white egg sauce with the addition of chopped pork for texture...the Lobster Sauce I have experienced here on the West Coast WITH black beans.. obviously adds both a deeper color and a heavier flavor than the light one...

        2. I am familiar with the dark sauce that you speak of. I have to regret that here in the south, chinese food is lacking in the flavor department. I have been looking myself for sometime for the recipe for this, and have yet to find one that seems to fit what i am looking for. I do know that it contains oyster sauce (adds darkness), peanut oil, ground pork, shrimp, VERY little soy sauce. As far as the beans go, there was never any beans in the sauce that I am used to. May be a different varient of the sauce. That is all that I know. I have tried the "white sauce" and was not impressed. Thank you and goodluck cooking everyone!

            1. I have been living in Florida for 13 years, for 13 years I have been hunting for brown lobster sauce...thanks to a search fluke on my part, and a big Thanks to you I now have the Kowloon's reciepe which I am going to try tonight. BIG THANK YO

              1 Reply
              1. re: mcapp

                mcapp, how did the recipe turn out? I am from boston as well and don't want to waste time trying a recipe until i hear from a fellow new englander that it is close to the real thing! i can't take the disappointment! :)

              2. I grew up on Boston's lobster sauce, but it's been a few decades since I've lived there. Whenever I returned to visit relatives my first stop was at the South Pacific in Newton.

                Below is the recipe I use for shrimp with lobster sauce. It's close, but not quite the same.

                2 pounds ground pork
                1 pound medium to large shrimp, uncooked
                2 or 3 jars Chinese black bean sauce
                6 cloves of garlic, peeled
                6 slices of fresh ginger (peeling the ginger before slicing is recommended but not necessary)
                Dry sherry
                1 tablespoon soy sauce
                Corn starch
                Cooking oil (Peanut oil, which cooks hottest, is the choice of chefs, but any oil except olive oil will do.)
                1 teaspoon sugar

                1. Peel and devein the shrimp and set aside.
                2. Mix 3 tablespoons of sherry and 3 tablespoons of corn starch. If the mixture is thick, add more sherry.
                3. Pour 3 tablespoons of oil into a large frying pan, add the ginger slices, crush the garlic and add it, also.
                4. While the oil is heating (medium-high), put the shrimp into the sherry-cornstarch mixture.
                5. When the oil is very hot, thoroughly drain each shrimp and add it to the pan. Cook for 1½ minutes on each side. Put the cooked shrimp on a plate, cover, and set aside.
                6. Remove the garlic and ginger from the pan and set them aside.
                7. Drain the fry pan, but don’t rinse it out. Brown the ground pork in the pan, not letting the meat cluster together.
                8. While the pork is cooking, put 8 cups of water, 2 jars of black bean sauce, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and the garlic and ginger into a large pot.
                9. Boil the mixture for a couple of minutes and taste. If it seems too weak, start adding the third jar of black bean sauce, if it’s too strong, gradually add more water.
                10. When satisfied with the flavor, mix in the teaspoon of sugar, and then add the by-now-cooked pork. Simmer for 5 minutes.
                11. Remove the ginger and, if you want, the garlic. Raise the heat to high.
                12. Prepare a mixture of 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with water.
                13. Add the shrimp to the pot. Raise the heat to high, boil for 1 minute.
                14. Mix in some of the cornstarch. Boil for 1 minuter. If the sauce has not begun to thicken, add more cornstarchs. Repeat until the sauce is thickening, then boil one more minute.
                15. Dig in.

                1 Reply
                1. re: The Real Howard S.

                  2-3 JARS of b/b sauce??? What size are these jars -- I would think 3 TB would do it along with some chicken broth. 8 cups of water and 2-3 jars sounds like sodium overkill soup... well, maybe in Boston...

                2. I am from Boston also and have lived in Fl for 9 yrs, Here they donot have the same lobster sauce either, I have made it once before and found this recipe again , I think this might be what you are loking for but instead of using ground beef, it is ground pork..Good luck.
                  4 garlic cloves, minced
                  1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
                  1 lb ground beef(diet lean)
                  2 cups sliced scallions
                  4 cubes instant chicken-flavored broth(Herb-Ox)
                  3 cups hot water
                  4 tablespoons sugar
                  4 tablespoons oyster sauce
                  4 teaspoons soy sauce
                  6 teaspoons cornstarch
                  1Saute' meat and seasonings.
                  2Add scallions.
                  3Dissolve Herb-Ox in water and add to meat.
                  4Add sugar, oyster sauce and soy sauce.
                  5Mix corn starch with some of the liquid to thicken.

                  1. Does anyone know why it is called lobster sauce if there is no lobster in it?

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: observor

                      I think you are supposed to serve it OVER lobster or other shellfish.

                      1. re: coll

                        I don't know what kind of fermented black beans others are using in the older comments, but in my experience, they really do not offer much in terms of coloring the dish, i.e., turning sauces darker.

                        I'm very close(a neighbor) to a Chinese family that owned a restaurant in New Jersey and had relatives who owned a restaurant in Boston's Chinatown. While growing up in my youth, I worked at the restaurant in NJ and I visited the relatives in Boston. I've eaten my share of Lobster Cantonese and Shrimp in Lobster Sauce.....both having the same sauces for both dishes. In both restaurants, a little dark soy sauce and oyster sauce were used to obtain the brown color and flavor....fermented Black Beans were added if requested as Lobster Cantonese in Back Bean Sauce...and the same dark soy and oyster sauces were added into the mix.

                        Both the lobster and the shrimp were cooked and served in the sauce, but the shellfish was first pan seared before the liquid was added.......I can only surmise it was called lobster sauce .....because it was the way Cantonese restaurants served Lobster back in the early 40's or 50's. For those who did not like lobster or wanted a cheaper alternative, they request shrimp instead, but with the same sauce.....thus, it became known as Shrimp with Lobster Sauce.......

                        For the record, my friend's recipe was:

                        Vegetable Oil
                        Chopped Garlic
                        Ground Pork
                        Chicken Stock
                        Light Soy Sauce, Salt and a dash of Ground White Pepper
                        Corn Starch to Thicken
                        Scrambled Egg...both yolk and whites
                        Garnished with Thin Sliced Scallions

                        1. re: fourunder

                          I agree that black beans don't lend alot of color, but for my tastes, they are an essential ingredient. The coloring mostly comes from saucing - soy or oyster flavored sauce.
                          In the Montreal area, the lobster sauce is almost always dark. As soon as I cross the border into the US, they prepare it very light, sometimes the only coloring is from the egg yolks, so its yellow.
                          Again for my tastes, the scrambled egg is important too, but not overcooked. I like to swirl it in at the end, shut the heat and let them only semi-set. This adds a different textural quality. I also like a very light drizzle of sesame oil at the end.
                          Oh yeah, its called lobster sauce 'cause its traditionally served with lobster as other posters mention.

                          1. re: fourunder

                            Great facts and receipe. Your friend must have worked for my family's restaurant. We also added about a teaspoon of garlic powder. Some of our customers have sliced ginger in the lobster sauce.

                            1. re: fourunder

                              No black beans?
                              My mom makes the best shrimp with lobster sauce better than any restaurant and taught me. So simple.

                              Heat up mashed up black beans and garlic (table spoon or more of each to taste--bottled stuff isnt as good as fresh) in some hot oil and then brown 1/2 pound of ground pork in the mixture. Add some soy sauce and black pepper. Make a slurry of corn starch and water and stir in. When hot add in a pound of raw shrimp and stir for a couple minutes (don't overtook). Stir in a couple raw eggs cover and serve.

                            2. re: observor

                              Maybe the sauce imitates the lobster's briny-sweetness and the texture even resembles the fluffy stuff you get when you boil the lobster.

                              1. re: observor

                                Garlic and ginger are the predominant spices, and they are traditionally used with fish and shellfish dishes. Hence "lobsterless" lobster sauce.

                              2. Chicago area restaurants also had the lovely dark lobster sauce witah eggy threads - my go-to dish when ordering from Chinese restaurants was always Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. When I moved south, all I could find on the menu was Shrimp with Lobster-Style. Pretty much (to me) tasteless, insipid and unsatisfying. When I sked, I was told that since Lobster is white, and shrimp is white, it should have a white sauce.

                                I am very grateful for this thread. I wil try a few of these and try to recreate that lucious flavor myself. Mmmmmm. Thank you all.

                                1. Look up Kowloons of new england they have a great recipe!! I use it all the time

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Bucket1964

                                    Here's a direct link to the recipe:


                                    I have never tried the recipe from Kowloon's, but I love shrimp with lobster sauce. My favorite recipe comes from my very old copy of the Joyce Chen cookbook. It (and all the other recipes in that cookbook) is simple to cook and superb to eat!

                                    If anyone is interested in hunting down a copy of the Joyce Chen cookbook, here is a link to help get you started. I use the same edition as is pictured.