A FRIED STATE OF MIND: THE FRIKANDEL
My mother knew there was no nutritional value in chilipaste.
There’s no benefit to eating meatloaf either.
Some foods just need help.
[Smoky sausage: rookworst; a fine-textured juicy high fat sausage that is very nice with braised vegetables and potatoes, or in thick soups. Babi panggang: Indonesian spit-barbecued pig, though in the Netherlands usually slow-cooked haunch of hog basting in its own juices. Kroket: croquettes, being a béchamel and meat mixture first chilled, then rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried - when right out of the hot fat these will melt the roof of your mouth. Zure zult: something it is best you do not know about. Herring: the perfect fish. Pan-fried noodles: bami goreng – the Dutch-Indo taste prefers this to be very spring-oniony, which is made delicious with a squeeze of lime juice and a hefty dollop of chilipaste. Sambal: thick chilipaste used as a condiment OR as a basic culinary building block. Meatloaf: a brick of animal fibre that bounces slightly when new.]
When I came back to the United States as a college student, there were very few home-cooked flavours that I truly missed. Meatloaf was one taste I preferred to avoid. My mother had been a mediocre cook, and for the last years of her life my father and I gladly shared kitchen duties.
My father favoured chops, roasts, curries, and goulashes, I experimented with Dutch-Indonesian flavours, and both of us occasionally produced dishes that inspired profound questions.
What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Who is wise?
What the heck is this muck, and why are we eating it?
How is this night different from all other nights?
One of the things I occasionally miss from the old country is gehaktbal. Not, as you would think, the typical meatball that begs for canned tomato sauce or a catapult, but a version made with a finer and fattier grind of meat, as well as powdery rusk crumbs (‘paneermeel’) worked in along with nutmeg, clove, pepper, and cinnamon. Dense yet airy, juicy but not wet. Mild spicing. Perfect with either typical plain vegetables, or bathed in coconut broth with lemon grass, ginger, and cilantro.
Either way, a big splidge of sambal on the side.
Americans just never do ‘gehaktbal’.
They cannot pronounce it.
A strong guttural rasp starts the first syllable, a brutal glottal ‘LL’ finishes the last. Burst it forth from your mouth as if it is one tightly packed grunt in toto, rather than lazily drawing it out.
It sounds like a furball, but tastes much better.
The gehaktbal is the ancestor of the frikandel, which was invented in North Brabant by a village butcher during the nineteen fifties.
The principle behind the gehaktbal is the same as with any ground meat product. A toothsome texture, spicing that glorifies the flesh, juiciness because of a high fat content, and a savouriness that compliments whatever is served alongside.
Key is never overworking the meat, as it becomes tough and stringy if maltreated. A slightly coarser grind and different spicing goes into siu mai (燒賣), a finer texture with more fat is used for frikandel.
The frikandel is only about sixty or seventy percent maximum animal substance, the rest is powdered rusk, spices (primarily pepper and nutmeg), binders, herbs, salt. After mixing it is rolled into a sausage form, dipped in paneermeel and beaten egg white, then paneermeel again, rested, and deep-fried at a high temperature.
The meat used in the typical commercial frikandel is a blend of fatty pork, beef, and chicken. There are unspeakable theories as to precisely where on the animal the meat comes from, but one may safely ignore them, which is best for your mental health in any case.
The frikandel is basically a glorified meatball. So perhaps you should think of it as a mini-meatloaf heading strongly in the direction of saveloy, rather than in the opposite direction, towards that dense doorstop tolerated by many Anglo-Saxons once a week.
It does not require ketchup, gherkins, and medication beforehand, nor strong resolve.
Yes, it can be served à l'Américaine on a bun with many condiments plus chopped onion, or the same way the Brits usually enjoy a saveloy, with fries and vinegar.
But it’s quite perfect when pulled out of the wall and eaten with mustard.
My mother liked them cold for lunch the next day.
I never waited that long.
Haven't made frikandel in several years now...
Perhaps I should do so again.
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