April 22, 2009

Shanghai Adventures in Eating

After a 13 hour flight from Chicago, I finally arrive at my brother's apartment in Shanghai. He's been living here for almost three years, and this is my first visit with our entire immediate family. Mark claims that all there is to do in Shanghai is eat, shop and be massaged. What's wrong with that? With only 7 days in Shanghai, I'm looking forward to staying put.

As soon as I arrive, I'm offered a plate of Lion's Head Meatballs, a traditional Shanghainese casserole of large braised pork meatballs and greens, prepared by my brother's personal chef Gina. All my life I was under the impression that this is a Shanghainese dish, but Gina tells us that they originated in Yangzhou, a City near by Shanghai , and that they are just meatballs to Shanghai residents.

1 pound ground pork butt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tsp cornstarch
2 T chicken stock or water
1 T rice or shaoxin wine
1 tsp sugar
white ground pepper to taste
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger, finely minced
1 tsp sesame oil
(water chestnuts, finely chopped, optional)
extra cornstarch

2 T vegetable oil
1/2 cup to 1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp sugar to taste
3 T soy sauce
1 pound napa cabbage, cleaned

Mix cornstarch and chicken stock together in a small bowl. Set aside. In a larger bowl, mix ground pork, egg, scallions, ginger, sugar, pepper, sesame oil and cornstarch mixture Allow mixture to sit for 30 minutes or so. Add more cornstarch if the mixture is too wet. Then form the pork into 6 - 8 patties.

Heat oil in a saute pan. When oil is hot, add meatballs and brown over high heat until the outside is seared and caramelized approximately 5 minutes. Turn and brown the other side. When meatballs are browned, remove from heat. Using the same pan or casserole dish, bring 1/2 cup chicken stock and soy sauce to a boil. Lower heat, add meatballs. Add more chicken stock if necessary to cover the meatballs. Slowly braise for 10 minutes. Add cabbage and seasoning to taste.

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