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On lobster noodles
It’s been so long since my last newsletter and I’ve been wanting to email for awhile, but things have been so busy around here. My in-laws were staying with us for the past three weeks and it was full-on road-tripping around Victoria, cooking and eating our hearts out, and catching up after almost three years of not seeing one another in the flesh! Wex and I were exhausted by the end of it, especially as introverts who have gotten used to the peace and calm of Daylesford, but it was so nice to be together again.
The nights that were spent cooking and having meals around the table were particularly wonderful. I cooked many meals for us, but one of the most memorable was the lobster dinner (some of you might have seen this on IG).
My mother-in-law had been telling us for months to enjoy lobster while we can because prices are currently at an all-time low, given that Australia is not exporting lobsters to China at the moment. And so, earlier this year, Wex and I got ourselves two lobster tails from South Melbourne market.
Lobster always feels like such an insanely extravagant thing to be eating, even more so when it isn’t Chinese New Year. I can’t recall many occasions in my childhood where my family actually ordered lobster, and I’ve never particularly craved for the taste of lobster either. Until last year during our trip to Sydney!
Wex and I were catching up with a couple of chef friends at the legendary (now-defunct) Golden Century. Golden Century is not your average Chinese restaurant. When you open up the black padded menu, the first thing you see is a whole list of world-renowned chefs (David Chang of Momofuku fame is one of them) and the gleaming things they have to say about it. Everyone orders pretty much the same items when they go to Golden Century - the XO pippies and ‘Chinese doughnuts’ (read: youtiao), and the lobster noodles.
(The restaurant even appeared on Munchies!)
Our friends being Korean and Indonesian, the responsibility of placing the order naturally fell on us. And let me tell you, it was such an empowering, grown-up feeling to tell the server that I wanted to order a lobster, watch him catch it from the tank, weigh it, bring it over, and ask if it was heavy enough.
The lobster noodles were fantastic. I don’t remember another occasion I've enjoyed lobster more. Lobster rolls have NOTHING on ee meen drenched in lobster shell-infused sauce, and topped with sweet lobes of meat.
Back to the two lobster tails Wex and I bought. I wanted to recreate Golden Century’s ee meen and share the recipe on Singapore Noodles. I even filmed the process. But the flesh was mushy when cooked - god only knows how long the tails had been sitting there on display! And I felt like my process needed some tweaking. I had cooked the dish like typical eefu noodles - the noodles tossed into the sauce - but realized after tasting the dish that it would probably work better if they were kept separate in this instance.
My parents-in-law being over, and us finding a super reasonably-priced live lobster at a Vietnamese market, was the perfect reason to give the dish another go. It was difficult to film a tutorial with so many people in the house, so a precise recipe and video tutorial will have to wait for next Chinese New Year or my/ Wex’s birthday, when I have a reason to buy lobster again. But if you can’t wait, here are the steps:
The first thing you’ll need to do is to dispatch the lobster. I’ve killed lobsters in restaurants according to what I’ve been told - drop them in boiling water. But I honestly think that’s quite an inhumane way to kill lobsters. “They scream!” A friend told me, adding that the RSPCA-recommended way to do the deed is to stick the lobster in the freezer to put it to sleep. Other people put a knife straight down the head but I don’t want to do a botched job with a struggling crustacean, so I much prefer the freezer method. Once the lobster is dormant (but not frozen), trim off the legs, long feelers, and gills.
Release the pee of the lobster by sticking a chopstick into the marking on its underside - this gets rid of any odours (honestly I learnt this from Youtube, not sure if it really does make a difference). Chop the lobster into big shell-on chunks.
Coat in cornstarch and deep-fry briefly to partially cook the lobster and lock in the juices. The cornstarch coating also helps the sauce cling to the lobster.
For the sauce, it’s easier than you think. Drizzle some of the fragrant oil from deep-frying the lobster into your wok of choice. Add a generous handful of garlic, spring onions and ginger. Stir-fry until ridiculously fragrant, then add a splash of good wine (only the good stuff because you are cooking LOBSTER). I use W Rice Wine’s red glutinous rice wine (not sponsored, just a genuine fan).
Add chicken stock or water boosted with some chicken powder + oyster sauce + soy sauce to taste. A dash of sesame oil too. Return your lobster to the wok and simmer, covered, until just-cooked. This step not only infuses the flavour of lobster into the sauce, but also thickens the sauce.
In the meantime, spread some blanched ee meen out on a plate. Top with the lobster pieces. In terms of proportions, 3 rounds of noodles was about right for a lobster weighing 1.3kg. The sauce would have thickened up nicely by now. Do an egg drop if you like, and pour the sauce all over the lobster. I like serving the dish with a sambal of coarsely ground chillies seasoned with sugar, salt, and vinegar, the cherry on top of what would already be a spectacular dinner at home! And don’t forget your veggies!
Will be travelling back to Singapore in approximately a week! Lots of cooking & eating planned, more food pics to come then 😬✌🏻