Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lion Head - Pork Meatballs Stew

It's getting a bit challenging trying to translate or interpret some of our family's favorite dishes.  The LION HEAD is a description of well seared large pork meatballs, then simmered with Chinese Nappa Cabbage - BAI TSAI, dried SHIITAKE - DONG GU, Firm TOFU, Bean thread,... It's our father's favorite dish.
My mother makes it the best.  And here is mine. 
I made enough to serve 4.
1 Quart Chicken Stock - home made & pre-frozen
2 C to 4 C water - (2 Cups come from the hydrated dried mushroom below)
3 hydrated SHIITAKE - dried Chinese mushrooms - Microwave it with enough water to cover the mushrooms (leave a small plate on top to keep the mushroom in the liquid.)  Place the bowl over a microwave tray to catch spilling liquid.  Bring the water to boil. Remove from microwave and set aside to hydrate in liquid.  *transfer liquid to the pot when ready to add mushroom into the stew
1-1/4 lb of ground Pork - fatty pork is preferred, but mine is 95% lean.
130 grams - 1 small can - water Chestnut (discard liquid and washed & rinsed well) - chopped
3 grams of minced fresh Ginger (Tip:  cut and prepare fresh ginger into various size and Freeze them in plastic bag.  Use the ones you want.)
1 Large egg
32 grams of chopped green onions - about 3 slender American green onions - Stir Fried in teaspoon of Olive Oil till browned.
Salt to taste - at least 1 to 2 tsp will be used in meat - Tip:  season the liquid as you go.
White ground pepper.
(Click on any of the pictures to view in larger size.)
 Water chestnuts are my father's idea.  He told me that since our ground pork is so lean, add chopped water chestnuts to give the nice fluffiness and at the same time it gives the enjoyable crispness.   Normally you would put the fresh chopped green onions, but I wanted to try with pre-stir fried green onions.
 Mix well by tossing motion.  Do no stir crazy in circling motion with the chop sticks or spoon.  That will make the meatball 'tough', unless your intention is to make the meatballs with gelatinized texture.
 Instead of pan frying the meatballs because I do not have the normal rounded end cone shaped Chinese iron WOK like my mothers, which will keep the rounded shape of the meat as they fry, I decided to test my new tool - meatball baker pan (I got it from the AVON catalog.) 
 If the pork is really fatty, this would really helped in getting rid of the extra fat.  But on the other hand, normally when pan fried in the Wok, some of the fats are left in the Wok to complete the stew, and it gives a lots of flavor.
 Here is the hydrated mushrooms.  I only used three.  Cut them into quarters.  Add to the stew.  Wash and rinse the Chinese Nappa Cabbage well.  Cut the broad leaf into halves - lengthwise.  Then cut into 2 to 3-inch chunks side ways.  Add Nappa Cabbage into stew. 
Open up your Firm or extra Firm TOFU package.  Drain the liquid.  Set the TOFU on a plate with rim or bowl and place a plate on it to extract some more water.  Drain.  Repeat 2 times.
Cut into nice large chunks.... like 1-1/2 inch size.
Add salt and white ground pepper to the soup, as needed.
** Be aware of the "fake" Bean thread vermicelli.  This one I have turned out to be it!  I forgot that the good bean thread vermicelli in this brand is always "individually" wrapped and tied close in red and white ribbon.  This one is in one whole plastic bag.  Also, the good bean thread vermicelli's brand has blue coloring on the plastic wrap at one end.   I totally forgot to be careful when I purchased it.   The whole thing turned into glue like when added to the stew. 

To hydrate bean thread, add the bean thread vermicelli into a bowl of hot boiling water.  In this one, I just took out the mushrooms and quartered it and added to the stew.  Then, I reboiled the liquid in the microwave and added the bean thread vermicelli.  When soft, use scissors and cut the both ends of the vermicelli, so it will not be toooooo loooong.
 Add the bean thread vermicelli at the end  - like three minutes before serving.  Otherwise, you will not find them - all dissolved into the soup.

Serve with soy sauce as dipping sauce.

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