Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Chinese Style Meatballs with Stir Fry Sauce

Sizzling in the pan!

I was in a stir fry mood and already had a package of ground pork thawing in the refrigerator. Crumbled meat didn’t appeal to me but meatballs did. So I decided to adapt my Thai Inspired Meatballs recipe to Chinese style ingredients. The recipe made 12 meatballs, enough for 2 meals, plus a couple for tasting. I could have frozen half the meatballs, but opted for two stir fry dinners in a row. I use a cookie dough scoop to portion out the meatballs. Most of the time, I just bake them without rolling to get perfect rounds.

With Trader Joe's Frozen Stir Fry Veggie Medley

The vegetables were easy enough. One night I used a package of Trader Joe’s frozen stir fry medley. The next night I reheated the meatballs in a little NSA chicken broth and stir fried a package of fresh snap peas I had in the fridge, some sliced carrots, and some canned baby corn. I tossed everything, vegetables and meatballs, with homemade stir fry sauce and dinner was done.

I used a basic stir fry sauce, however it’s very easy to customize. Check out the list of optional add-ins below. You can modify the stir fry sauce to suit the meat or vegetables being used and your own personal tastes. Make a mild, delicate sauce or a robust, flavorful sauce. It’s up to you.
With Fresh Vegetables

The meatballs were great and so were the accompanying vegetables. I didn’t serve rice or noodles, but if I had, I would have doubled the liquid used in the sauce. The bottom line ‒ I ended up with two tasty Chinese style dinners, each with very little sodium.

Chinese Style Meatballs with Stir Fry Sauce

1 lb. ground salt free turkey/chicken/pork
1/3 cup fresh salt free/low sodium breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. minced shallots/thinly sliced green onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 tsp. ginger (minced  or paste)
1-2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce (I use Chinatown)

Optional: (I used all the options)
¼ tsp. 5 spice powder
⅛ tsp. Hot chile oil (or to taste)
¼ tsp. White pepper

Combine breadcrumbs, eggs, and all the ingredients except meat. Mix well.  Break up meat and add in small clumps. Mix well. (I wear vinyl disposable gloves and use my hands.)  Let the mixture sit for at least 15 minutes in order to allow breadcrumbs to absorb excess moisture.

Form approximately 12 meatballs.(I use a cookie scoop to portion meatballs) Place on greased cookie sheet (I line my baking pan with Reynold’s non-stick foil. Parchment paper would work too.) Bake for approximately 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven until done.

Basic Stir Fry Sauce

¼ cup water or NSA/low sodium chicken broth* (Note: the flavor of Herb-Ox granules does not work well in Asian dishes)
1- 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (I use Chinatown)
1 tsp sugar
½ - 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp water*
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced or finely sliced
½ tsp ginger, minced/grated or paste
1 tbsp vegetable oil, if needed

*For more sauce, use ½ cup liquid with 2 tsp cornstarch

Optional Add-Ins: (Start with small amount until you’re sure you like the flavor addition)

Unseasoned rice vinegar (adds tartness & tang)
Fresh chilies, minced/sliced or hot chili oil (adds spiciness & heat)
Sweet chili sauce (Ginger People’s Sweet Ginger Chili Sauce has only 5 mg sodium/2 Tbsp)
Substitute part of the water with pineapple or orange juice
Fresh cilantro (adds a fresh, herby taste)
Pinch of Chinese five spice powder (adds a flavor similar to hoisin sauce)
Freshly ground white pepper (adds complex earthiness due its fermentation)
Molasses (adds a bit of sweetness and dark coloring)
Ketchup (adds tomato flavor along with a touch of vinegar and sweetness)
Add more toasted sesame oil, sugar, garlic, and ginger to taste

In small bowl, combine water/broth with soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch slurry. Add desired optional ingredients. Stir well to dissolve sugar and blend in cornstarch mixture.

Stir fry whatever vegetables and/or meat are being used until almost ready for serving. Add 1 more tbsp oil, if needed. Add garlic and ginger; cook until fragrant, just a few seconds. Add sauce mixture a little at a time, and continue cooking until sauce is slightly thickened and glossy. All the stir fry should be lightly coated with the sauce.

Vary the sauce ingredients according to what’s in the stir fry. What works for chicken with snow peas may not work for beef with onions and peppers. Some stir fry combinations need a  more delicate, lightly flavored sauce, while others lend themselves to the aggressive flavors of chilies, garlic, and vinegar. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Also, don’t add all the sauce at once. Pour in just a little bit at a time, adjusting the sauce to how much food is being cooked. The goal is for the sauce to lightly coat every piece of food, leaving just enough to drizzle on rice if it’s being served. Don’t drown the stir fry in sauce.

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