LION HEADS IN SOUP: 滬式上湯獅子頭
Actually, don't think of that. The hamburger bears no resemblance, as the meatball is round, and made of pork. Instead, consider something in between the typical Dutch gehaktbal and the frikandel. That's much better. So round, so plump, so bursting with oinky goodness!
They're called 'lions heads' (獅子頭 'si ji tau') in Cantonese, and are supposed to be a Shanghainese thing. But the recipe most people use is typically Hong Kong, as it includes water chestnuts (馬蹄) and either lahp cheung or cured bacon for flavour, plus often a preserved egg.
To the Shanghainese, this is very close to heresy.
The Dutch wouldn't recognize it either, and instead of soup, they would serve it with hot mustard, and the vegetables on the side. Plus sambal.
Everything on a Dutch plate is better with sambal.
My recipe below does not include the preserved egg, and substitutes three rashers of peppered smoked bacon for the lahp cheung.
Because I am a barbarian, and I can do that.
WU SIK SEUNG TONG SI JI TAU
[Shanghai style lion heads in soup]
For the balls:
One pound ground pork.
Three rashers bacon, chopped.
Five or six matai (water chestnuts), chopped.
Two TBS soy sauce.
Two TBS sugar.
One TBS sherry.
Half TBS sesame oil.
One green onion, chopped.
One thumb of ginger, minced.
Two to three cloves garlic, minced.
Two eggs, beaten.
Four TBS cornstarch.
Pinch of five spice powder.
Pinch of freshly ground pepper.
For the broth:
1 pound bokchoi, bases trimmed.
One or two slices of ginger.
One and a half cups of superior stock or broth.
Note: you can substitute quatre epices for the five spice, or a little ground nutmeg.
To prepare the lion heads, mix the pork, bacon, ginger, garlic, matai (馬蹄), and green onion. Work it over with a chef's knife or cleaver till it is considerably finer in texture than it was. Use the blade to scoop it into a bowl, and add the remaining ball-ingredients. Mix well. It should be sticky but on the firm side, not gloopy. If necessary add a little more cornstarch.
Form into four large balls.
Heat a layer of oil in a deep pan or wok. Place the meatballs herein, and colour all over; whether you roll them around or turn them is up to you. Do not cook through, merely brown the outside and firm them up.
Remove them to a casserole. Heat up the stock or broth and pour over the meatballs; it need not cover them. Simmer for about ten minutes or so before adding the bokchoi to cook alongside. When the stems have become tender and the leaves are wilted, the dish is done.
I like to cook large chunks of cucumber (peeled and seeded) with the meatballs and cabbage; see previous excuse that I am a barbarian.
Serve each ball with some of the soup and vegetables.
Rice is an essential adjunct.
So is sambal.
Here you have what every Cantonese person thinks of when considering a meal. Pork, bokchoi, rice, and soup, plus the taste of something fried.
Sambal and cucumber are just icing on the cake.
This spells complete happiness.
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