Shrimp With Black Bean Soup

Over steamed rice, shrimp in black bean soup has a great umami flavor thanks to the fermented black beans.

Shrimp in Black Bean Soup, This Version

One possible mental image of Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce is a less wet stir-fry. But there are numerous variations available.

When I cook, my mind often wanders back to the meals I prepared while living in upstate New York and working in my parent’s restaurant in New Jersey.

With its swoops of egg, ground pork, and thick gravy, that dish’s Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce was reminiscent of Shrimp with Lobster Sauce.

Shrimp in Lobster Sauce, New England Style?

Interestingly, what people in the greater Boston area associate with Shrimp with Lobster Sauce is quite close to what this Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce resembles.

The gravy is darker because fermented black beans are sometimes used. (Here in New York City, shrimp in a lobster sauce is typically served over a white sauce.)

It’s fascinating to see the wide range of regional and seasonal differences in Chinese American takeout cuisine.

This New England variation has long been requested, so here it is!

It doesn’t matter if you call it Black Bean Sauce with Shrimp or Lobster Sauce with Shrimp; either way, it’s delicious.

So, What Exactly Is Black Bean Sauce?

Fermented black beans are a distinctive and flavorful ingredient in many traditional Chinese sauces, and the term “black bean sauce” is used to describe any such sauce.

One of my high school teachers, who frequently ate at local Chinese restaurants, said of the food there: “either you love it or you hate it – there is nothing in between.”

Black beans are one of the best value-for-money flavor boosters you can find at a Chinese supermarket, and they only cost about $2.00 for a pound.

Instead of jarred black beans and garlic sauce, we like to use whole black beans. Remember that the bottled sauce is very salty, if that’s all you can find. Mix it into your sauce base first, then see if you need more soy sauce or salt.


  • 1 1/2 cups of low sodium chicken stock (heated until hot)
  • 1 tbsp. of oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp. of dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. of sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp. of sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. of white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. of fermented black beans
  • 4 oz. of ground pork
  • 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil
  • 1 clove of garlic (minced)
  • 1/4 tsp. of ginger (minced)
  • 1/4 cup of green bell pepper (finely diced)
  • 12 oz. of peeled, deveined shrimp (21/25 size)
  • 1 tbsp. of Shaoxing wine
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. of cornstarch (mixed into a slurry with 2 tablespoons water)
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1 scallion (chopped)


  1. In a wok, bring 2–3 cups of water to a boil. In the meantime, mix the chicken stock, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and white pepper in a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup. Rinse the fermented black beans under running water by placing them in a strainer. Put the fermented beans and sauce in a separate bowl.
  2. After the water has come to a boil, add the ground pork and cook, stirring to break up any clumps, until the pork is no longer pink. Using a fine mesh strainer, remove the wok and put it to the side. (It doesn’t hurt to give it a quick rinse either, in case there’s any foam or debris that could cause the sauce to become cloudy.)
  3. Put your wok on the stove over medium-high heat after you’ve cleaned and dried it. Then stir in the fermented black beans, ground pork, bell pepper, garlic, and ginger. Toss for 20 seconds. Then, throw in the shrimp and splash the Shaoxing wine along the wok’s hot rim. Fry for another 20 seconds, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the sauce mixture to the wok after giving it a good stir to make sure all the ingredients are combined. Bring to a simmer, and then slowly add the cornstarch slurry, constantly stirring, until the sauce has reached the desired thickness.
  5. When the consistency becomes too thick, add more chicken stock or water. If the consistency is still too watery, more slurry can be added.
  6. Slightly beat the egg and drizzle it over the sauce. Hold the pan over low heat for 10 seconds to set the egg, and then gently fold it into the sauce using a spatula.
  7. Immediately serve over steamed rice and incorporate the chopped scallion.
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