During this struggling period of COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for everyone to try to look at the bright side of things and stay positive! One big positive – CHEAP lobsters! Live Western Rock lobster at $78 per kg. This is a great opportunity to finally practice cooking one of the famous Chinese banquet dishes, Cantonese-style Wok-fried Lobster Noodles. This dish can be served with crab instead, which we would much prefer to cook and eat but we could not find any. Guess it’s not in season yet…
We did a quick research for preparation, mostly on how to kill a live lobster as humanely as we can, and how to prepare it. The first time we did it, we woke up early on a Thursday morning, bought a couple lobsters, quickly went back home, all excited to ‘play‘ with the lobsters. And oh boy…it was tough… We honestly were traumatised after the first one. One of us ended up in tears, the other eventually plucked up the courage to move on to the second one, and managed to do the job swiftly and correctly. We told ourselves ‘That’s it! No more! We’ll just always have to eat the dish at restaurants instead!‘, but somehow a week, we were back at the market ordering for more lobsters.
When choosing lobsters, check that it is alive (if you can, poke it a bit), and most importantly, that it is energetic. If its flapping its tail like crazy, that’s great! We highly recommend refrigerating it as soon as you can, for at least an hour. Alternatively, you can put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. This will make it sluggish, allowing much easier handling of it when you kill it. Apparently, you can even store it overnight in the refrigerator, but make sure it does not go over a day as it is likely to die by then. Lobsters spoil quickly once dead, as bacteria rapidly grows and releases toxins that cannot be completely destroyed by cooking, and can get you serious food poisoning. So if it is dead and smells, throw it out.
Prior to preparing the lobster, prepare the noodles first. It will take about 45 minutes to have them ready, so whilst the lobsters are being refrigerated, there should be plenty of time to prepare them!
Killing the lobster can be tough and messy. Get ready with protective gloves or towels so you don’t get pricked easily. Expect dark liquid to spill all around. So, have the towels ready nearby. You will need a good sharp sturdy knife, a thick wooden chopping board and having a sharp kitchen scissors will make your life much easier as well. We ended up using 3 knives, as all of them were not sharp enough! We needed two cleavers (one heavy and one thin-and-sharp) to slice through the shell and tough parts, and 1 long/chef’s knife to pierce through the lobster head. To kill it, you want to place it so that the belly is facing down on the chopping board, firmly holding the lobster where the tail connects to the body. Place the chef knife at the cephalic groove and in one quick motion cut through its head, right between its eyes .
Next, you must drain its pee. Use a wooden chopstick or one of the lobster’s antenna to poke through its bum hole near its tail end. Give it a good twist whilst you poke through, then hold it up with the tail side down, and you should notice a murky liquid draining out. Once drained, twist the tail off, and snip of the swimmerets with the scissors. Don’t be alarmed if the lobster is still wriggling. Cut the tail in halves by first using the scissors to cut the belly and back surfaces of the shell, then with a knife to halve the flesh. Remove the intestines and veins. Further chop up the halved tails into 4 or 5 smaller bite size pieces. As for the head and legs, completely halve it. Separate the legs from the head. Discard the lungs. There should be a soft yellow green substance in the cavities, the tomalley, we like to save it aside and use it for the sauce. It is optional, but it definitely gives the sauce a creamier texture with an intense yummy flavour. The legs can be chopped into 3 parts with the prickly leg ends chopped/snipped off. Finally, make sure to wash every piece thoroughly getting rid of any black liquid, and pat them dry after.
Once dried, lightly coat flesh parts of the lobster pieces with the flour, cornstarch and salt mixture and deep fry them! This keeps all the yummy juices in them. The shells should turn into a beautiful bright red colour almost instantly. After flash frying them, get ready for the wok!
When it comes to the wok, you got to move quick! Everything cooks up in a flash of a second, so have everything organised nearby. Have the noodles partially cooked with boiling water and set aside. We also like to pre-mix the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and white pepper to be faster. When wok frying, keep in mind that the lobster is already partially cooked from the deep frying, so be careful not to overcook it, the flesh would become a lot tougher and rubbery. It should be cooked in the wok for just another 2 to 3 minutes longer. When the lobsters are ready, remove from wok, leaving remaining sauces for the noodles. Add in the remaining Chinese wine and chicken stock and allow noodles to finish cooking completely. If you like to use the lobster heads for plating decoration, place them on top of the noodles before covering the lid. Don’t forget to add in the cornstarch slurry to give the sauce a nice thick consistency to drizzle over the dish at the end!
And voila! Plate up and serve.