Recipe: chinese fried pork meatballs
After enjoying superb snow conditions in Crested Butte last week, the atmosphere has gone on holiday here on the Front Range. I complained to my mom on the phone that it has been warm and sunny and windy. She laughed because she finds my obsession with snow amusing. Even though there hasn’t been any new snow this week, I haven’t allowed myself to fall into the snob trap – where you tell yourself that it isn’t worth getting out unless conditions are perfect. No, I’m getting out every day for the fresh air, the exercise, the scenery, the joy of gliding over snow.
hoping this little storm front brings some snow
Keeping active is important to me or else I start to feel down and get the blahs. It also allows me to indulge around the holidays without feeling debauched. I mean, the end of the year is when all of the yummy morsels get marched out at the parties! Among my favorite little foods are meatballs. I pretty much love them all, but I have a soft spot in my heart for these Chinese-style pork meatballs because my mom makes them and they’re delicious.
the filling: soy sauce, sesame oil, bamboo shoots, ground pork, cornstarch, dried black mushrooms, fresh ginger, green onions, napa cabbage (not pictured: salt)
mince the vegetables
mix the ingredients in a bowl
Actually, Mom makes a simpler version with just ground pork and chopped green onions, a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil, and some cornstarch. She’d scoop little spoonfuls of the filling into hot oil and serve them up to my nephew, who ate them with gusto. My version is essentially my Chinese dumpling/potsticker filling because I can’t bear to leave out all of those wonderful vegetables. If you want to make this gluten-free, substitute tamari or a gluten-free soy sauce for the soy sauce. I coat mine in cornstarch before frying because if I don’t, the meatballs tend to lose some of their mass to the oil… and that makes for sad pandas all around.
roll into balls and roll in cornstarch
fry and drain on paper towels
The meatballs are easy to make, but the preparation of the ingredients – mainly chopping the vegetables – can be time-consuming. A word of advice: don’t use a food processor to chop the ingredients because the results are not uniform. Also, when you fry the meatballs, don’t crowd too many of them in the pan. The splatter factor increases and the meatballs will be more inclined to stick to one another. I fried mine in three batches in a medium saucepan. They are best served warm or hot with a dipping sauce on the side. I have tried a soy garlic reduction (that was a fail), a soy sauce-vinegar combination (decent), and chili-garlic sauce (decent). In my opinion, the best accompaniment to the meatballs is Thai sweet chili sauce. It has sweet, sour, and just enough heat to play off the meatball flavors of ginger, pork, green onions, and mushrooms. These make great party appetizers or can be served over steamed rice (with the sauce) or in an Asian noodle soup. If you want to make them ahead, just revitalize the meatballs in a moderate oven for 5-6 minutes.
nice little finger foods
don’t forget the sauce!
crisp outside, tender inside
Chinese Fried-Pork Meatballs
1 lb. ground pork
2 leaves napa cabbage, minced
3 stalks green onions, sliced thin
2 tbsps bambo shoots, minced
4-5 medium dried shitake mushrooms, rehydrated, rinsed, stems removed, and minced
2 tbsps fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsps sesame oil
2 tbsps soy sauce (use tamari if making gluten-free)
1/3 cup cornstarch for dredging
vegetable oil for frying
Thai sweet chili sauce for dipping
Mix the pork, cabbage, green onions, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, ginger, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, salt, sesame oil, and soy sauce (or tamari if you want it gluten-free) together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Place the 1/3 cup of cornstarch in a shallow bowl. Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan or a large pot to 375°F. Begin pinching off heaping tablespoons of the pork mixture and forming into balls about 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Roll each meatball in the cornstarch to completely coat the surface. Carefully lower the meatballs into the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes. Don’t crowd them. I did mine in 3 batches. Remove the meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Serve with Thai sweet chili sauce or another sauce of your preference while the meatballs are hot. Makes approximately 30 meatballs.
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