Lobster poached in rice wine

Lobster poached in rice wine

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

The clear, sweet flavours of steamed seafood remind us of eating at Beidaihe, east of Beijing and once a beach reserved for Communist Party officials, unionists and the like. These days it’s way more egalitarian and the seafood there is sensational. When we cook lobster or crab, we prefer to steam or gently poach it, taking care not to overcook it, which toughens all that succulent (and expensive) flesh. We serve it simply, with just a few sauces, like our fabulous XO and a slightly sweetened soy and ginger sauce.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg live lobster
100g salt
5 cm piece ginger, unpeeled and sliced
4 spring onions, chopped
500ml clear rice wine


  1. Place the lobster in a large plastic bag, then place the lobster in the freezer for 30–40 minutes to put it to sleep. Using a sharp knife, spike the lobster between the tail and the head to humanely dispatch it.
  2. Put the salt, ginger, spring onions and rice wine in a large saucepan. Add about 2 litres water, then put the lobster in the pan — add more water if needed, so the lobster is covered. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and cook for 20–25 minutes, or until the tail is firmly curled. Remove the lobster and cool.
  3. To serve, cut the lobster in half lengthwise and remove the digestive tract. Use a knife to loosen the flesh from the tail, removing the meat to cut it into small pieces (you can then return the meat to the shell if desired). Serve with XO sauce and sweet soy–ginger sauce and/or the spring onion and ginger dipping sauce.


  • Other seafood can be prepared and served at the same time. To cook live mud crabs or blue swimmer crabs, follow the same procedure as above for freezing the lobsters, to send them to sleep. Mud crabs weigh about 1 kg each and take 20 minutes to cook; blue swimmer crabs weigh about 300 g each and take 7–8 minutes to cook. Allow 1 mud crab for 2–3 people, as part of a shared meal, and 1 blue swimmer crab for 1–2 people, as part of a shared meal.

    To cook prawns, choose raw jumbo king prawns and don’t peel them. Cook for about 5 minutes, or just until they are firm — take care not to overcook them or they will be tough.
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