Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fried Meatballs and Simple Cucumber Salad

Sorry for being so delinquent lately.  Work has been really crazy.  But I have a few posts that are teed up and ready to go, so you guys can expect a flurry of posts over the next 4-5 days!  Hurray!  This meal was one of Alex's picks.  Actually, the Fried Meat Balls were his pick and the Simple Cucumber Salad was mine.  I had asked him to figure out a recipe to use up the rest of the ground pork in the fridge and this recipe from Rasamalaysia was what he came up with.  And since Alex rarely comes up with recipes that he wants to make I decided to go with it, even though I was a little skeptical.  Don't get me wrong - I love pork, I love meatballs and I love Chinese food.  So I'm not exactly sure what there was to be skeptical about with the exception of the name.  "Fried Meatballs" sounds a little weird and a lot heavy.  So I decided to make this cucumber salad to counteract that heaviness inherent in both meaty food and fried food.  According to Chinese tradition cucumbers are "cooling" (which to me means fresh and light).  I tend to pair cucumber salads of various sorts with dishes that either sound really heavy or sound really spicy.  It just seems like such a perfect pairing to me.

Fried Meatballs are (as most would expect) quite tasty.  They had really excellent flavor and a nice texture.  When I took my first bite I asked Alex if there was any cinnamon in there and then I remembered that there was some five-spice.  The perfume and flavors of the five-spice powder really comes through in the meatballs in a delicious way.  For those of you who turned your noses up at the addition of fish paste and fish sauce, it's like adding anchovies into sauces.  It doesn't make the dish taste fishy - it just gives it a really nice depth of flavor.  My one complaint about the meatballs is that I wish there had been some sort of sauce.  They weren't dry exactly, but I think that almost every meatball or meat patty could use some sort of sauce.  Alex and I briefly discussed how some sauce with a thick, aioli-type consistency would have been marvelous with these meatballs because it would have provided some moisture, flavor and textural constrast.  A really loose sauce (like a dumpling dipping sauce) would have made the meatballs soggy.  I guess sriracha would work in a pinch.  Actually, I kind of wish I had thought of that at the time.  We could have made some sort of sriracha mayo or something.  Oh well.  As for the cucumbers, they are exactly what they claim to be - simple.  I think I have made (and eaten) cucumber salads that I like more, but they were a really nice light, simple side dish for our meatballs.

Recipes after the jump!

Fried Meatballs
Available on Rasamalaysia

8 oz ground pork
1 egg
1/4 small onion, diced
2 oz fish paste (or finely minced raw shrimp)
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
3 dashes white pepper
Pinch of salt
Oil, for frying

Mix all the ingredients (except the oil) in a bowl and blend well. The mixture should be sticky.

Heat up a wok with some oil enough to cover half of the meatballs (shallow fry the meatballs). Wet your hands with some water. Using a teaspoon, scoop up some of the meatball mixture and shape it into a small. Drop the meatball into the wok to fry. Repeat the same until you use up the mixture.

Use the spatula to turn the meatballs to fry the other side until they are cooked. Serve hot.

Simple Cucumber Salad
Hot Sour Salty Sweet
By Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

1 medium European cucumber (about 1/2 lb)
1 tbsp black rice vinegar
2 tsp white rice or white wine vinegar
pinch sugar
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp minced ginger

Cut strips of peel lengthwise off the cucumber, leaving alternating strips on.  Cut the cucumber lengthwise into quarters and scrape off and discard the seeds.  Gently smash flat each length wit the side of a cleaver, then cut lengthwise in half and crosswise into approximately 1-inch lengths.  Place in a shallow bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together the viengars and sugar, then, pour over the cucumber.  Add the salt and mix well. 

Mound the cucumber on a small plate, sprinkle on the ginger, and serve as an appetizer or as a salad to accompany a rice meal.

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