Tasting the Conspiracy, item L2: Shrimp with Lobster Sauce

If it’s not clear what this is or why I’m doing it, check out the intro post.

Next up, a dish with a tantalizing title: shrimp with lobster sauce! How very oceanic! This was basically something I had never ordered before but been vaguely tempted by what with the connotations of a rich blend of seafood. Never mind that lobster used to be the food which appeared in legal codes for indentured servants, orphans, and prisoners detailing just how much you were allowed to foist off on them without being accused of cruelty. It’s a luxury food now, and not just because it’s a vehicle for butter. Right?

Shrimp with Lobster Sauce

You get to see my egg roll in this one! Anyways, this is shrimp, peas, and carrots in what looks like a thick egg-drop soup. I have no compunctions about migrating a good bit of it over onto my rice.

What exactly is this dish? Well, it has shrimp in it, of course, with a further textural accent of carrots and peas. And it has lobster sauce, which, like duck sauce before it, is so named not because it contains lobster but because it’s the sauce you put on lobster. It’s actually a quite bland sauce, one which has that gelatinous quality and slight taste undercurrent of cornstarch which characterizes thicker Chinese-American sauces. There’s also chicken broth in there, I think, and clear shreds of egg.. If there are other spices or herbs, they’re applied very lightly.

How authentically Chinese is it? Probably not very, although it’s hard to tell because it’s such a basic preparation. The “lobster sauce”, like “duck sauce”, probably is a heavily mutated form of some Cantonese preparation. I’d venture that whatever its origin, this is probably toned down very heavily for Western taste buds. The dish itself is apparently completely unknown in China.

Is it any good? The shrimp has a nice textural quality and a pretty good flavor of its own, and I might enjoy the shrimp on their own merits, but it’s hard to see what the sauce is really bringing to the table. It’s got color and textural variation so it outperforms sweet and sour chicken on the excitement front. It’s not exactly shaking up my world, but I can see how if you want a not-too-dry shrimp dish but no surprises this would hit that comforting sweet spot. It definitely has that bland-but-warm quality which good comfort food does have.

How does it complement the rice? Pretty well, to my surprise. I feel like these thicker Chinese-American sauces form a sort of suspension for the rice, and the resulting mixture is better than either alone (soy sauce only changes the texture of rice so much). And this dish is pretty heavily tilted on the sauce-to-meat balance, so there’s a lot to whisk from the entree over to the rice to cheer it on up. It’s an interesting case study in the textural improvement sauce brings to rice simply because from a flavor perspective this one isn’t doing much, but the rice is somehow a lot better with it.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

One Response to Tasting the Conspiracy, item L2: Shrimp with Lobster Sauce

  1. Pingback: Tasting the Conspiracy, item L0: Introduction | The Ecclesiastical Revue

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