Before heading off on our holiday, I did wonder how long it would be before I craved eating something “not Chinese”. I was particularly certain that I’d miss the lovely, simple goats cheese and lettuce rolls from Fatto a Mano in Gertrude Street.
Of course, “Chinese food” covers such a range of cuisines. Sure, I enjoyed my first lunch back at work, but we have been to both Hutong and Dumplings Plus for dumpling fixes, Nam Loong for buns and Noodle Kingdom for soup. Re-reading “Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper” also fired us up for some Yangzhou cuisine, so on Sunday we got cooking.
I’ve mentioned my irritation with Lonely Planet’s city guides before. Why, oh why, couldn’t they include a map of the whole country inside the cover? It wouldn’t have added too much distraction to the “city” focus and would have drawn our attention to the fact that Yangzhou is actually quite close to Shanghai. Perhaps we could have tried their famous rice and the Lion’s Head meatballs there! Alas, we were reduced to trawling the internet for a decent recipe for the latter (Fuschia Dunlop kindly includes a recipe for the former).
This is the recipe C cobbled together from a number of these sources. This particular version makes a meatball in broth; other recipes present the meatball in a thicker sauce. If we have a crack at that, I’ll post a comparison.
Yangzhou Lions Head Meatballs
Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons dried shrimp
500 lean ground pork (note: it’s recommended that you buy pork belly and chop it up yourself1)
4-5 cup water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
1 green onion chopped roughly into 3cm lengths
1 green onion finely sliced
1 x3cm chunk of ginger
1 green onion (including top), thinly sliced
1 tablespoons cornflour
½ beaten egg
½ tsp salt
3 tsp MSG
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tablespoon Shao Xing wine
pinch white pepper
vegetable oil for frying
2 cups chicken stock
1 bunch of kang kong leaves.
Soak shrimp in warm water to cover for 30 minutes; drain. Mince shrimp.
Chop spring onion in 3cm lengths. Peel ginger and crush with flat of cleaver. Put ginger and spring onion into pestle. Add MSG to pestle with 100ml of water. Use a mortar to squeeze out ginger and spring onion juice. Strain water out through sieve, squeezing out the juice. Discard the ginger and spring onion pulp.
Place mince in a bowl with 1/3 of the spring onion water, egg, white pepper, green onion slices, sugar, cornflour, wine, chestnuts. Use chopsticks to mix evenly, and stir together. Add 1/3 of spring onion water whilst stirring. When water is incorporated add the remaining 1/3, along with 15g salt. Knead meat for 2 minutes and rest for 30 minutes. Form into 4 meatballs.
Set wok in a ring stand and add oil to a depth of about 2 inches. Over high heat, bring oil to 350 degrees F. Add meatballs and cook for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Lift out and drain on paper towels
Place the meatballs in a large claypot with 1 cup stock. Simmer/steam for 1 hour (up to 3 hours) on low heat. Skim the soup, and add the kang kong leaves. Simmer covered for 1 minute and add salt to taste.
Serve, and enjoy!
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1. “The lion’s head meatball, for example, owed its irresistible succulence to the fact that the meat was hand-chopped into ‘fish-eye’ grains, and not minced or pureed”, Fuschia Dunlop, Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, page 298