Because of its price, lobster is a special occasion treat, but it's not one that's stuffy, at least if you serve it in its shell, as with this dish. It's hard to be formal when you have to roll up your sleeves to eat, and cracking claws and shells that are in danger of flying all over the place.
The Cantonese way of stir-frying lobster with ginger and spring onions enhances the sweet flavour of the fresh shellfish.
This dish goes well with steamed white rice, but if you're on the keto diet, you'll need to find something else to soak up the delicious sauce. If you're very strict about the keto diet, use dry sherry instead of the sake or rice wine.
Look for lively lobsters and buy them from a reputable dealer. Partially freezing the lobsters puts them in a state of hibernation and desensitises them. Clear space in your freezer, put the lobster – still in the bag it was sold in – on a tray, then freeze for about 30 minutes, or just long to stun it. Unwrap each lobster, lay it on its back and use a sturdy chef’s knife to cut through its head and brain in one firm, swift motion. The lobster is dead but will still move for at least 15 minutes. Slice the lobster lengthwise through the body, so it’s split in two. Cut the head from the body and pull off the claws. Cut each body half into three pieces.
Many recipes for lobster with ginger and spring onion use chicken stock as the liquid, but I use a dashi bag. Look for the type with katsuobushi (shaved dried skipjack tuna) and kombo (sea kelp). You can buy these in the Japanese section of supermarkets.
Freeze, kill and prepare the lobsters as instructed above, then set them aside for a few minutes.
Thinly slice the ginger. Cut the spring onions into 2.5cm (1in) lengths. Put the dashi bag in a heatproof cup and add 200ml (¾ cup plus 1tbsp) of boiling water. Leave to infuse for a couple of minutes, then remove the bag. Stir the soy sauce, sake/rice wine (or sherry) and white pepper into the dashi liquid.
Place a wok over a medium-high flame. Pour oil to a depth of about 8cm (3in) into the wok and heat to 180°C (350°F). While the oil is heating, put some cornstarch into a shallow bowl.
When the oil is hot, dredge the cut sides of the lobster pieces in the cornstarch and shake off the excess. Fry the lobster a few pieces at a time, cooking them until the shells turn bright red and the lobster is about three-quarters cooked. The body parts need only two to three minutes, the claws should be cooked in four to five minutes.
Before frying the heads, sprinkle the exposed parts with the cornstarch to cover them lightly but completely – don’t turn the pieces over to dredge in the cornstarch or the innards might fall out. Place the heads exposed-side up in the wok and ladle hot oil over the pieces for about two minutes, to let the innards firm up. Carefully flip the pieces over and fry for another minute or two.
Drain the fried lobster pieces on paper towels. Use a meat mallet to lightly crack the claws.
Pour off as much oil as possible from the wok (no need to wash it) then place it over a high flame. When the wok is hot, add the ginger and stir-fry for a minute. Add the spring onion and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add all of the lobster pieces.
Pour the dashi/soy sauce mixture into the wok and stir well, then turn the flame to low, cover the wok with the lid and simmer, stirring often, for three to five minutes, or until the lobster is cooked. The liquid should lightly coat the lobster pieces; if it doesn’t, stir over a high flame until the liquid forms a light sauce.
Transfer the ingredients to a serving dish and serve with steamed rice (or keto diet-approved alternative) and stir-fried green vegetables.