Meatball soup (wanja kuk)

December 4, 2009

This caught my eye immediately as I was flicking through ‘Far Eastern Cookery’, deciding what to make this week. Thank god it turned out well, because I’d had a run of bad meals: a prawn tom yum that was quite inedible, like drinking bitter washing up liquid, on Monday night (I don’t blame Madhur Jaffrey for that – I blame a packet of tom yum soup stock from the local Wing Yip). On Tuesday night, a BBQ steak wrap from Sainsbury’s bolted down before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played the Brixton Academy. Ugh. It was the only sandwich I could find without mayo. At least the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were good, and you don’t even want to know how much time I spent the following day dancing around my kitchen to ‘Zero’.

So, anyway – meatballs. I love meatballs, and sausages, and minced meat in most forms, much to the chagrin of my parents as I grew up reluctant to eat meat in any other form (see aforementioned ‘vegetarian phase’). I’m proud to say that I can now eat proper meat (with bones!) without my bottom lip wobbling, but I still love meatballs. These meatballs are from a Korean recipe which features the unusual addition of tofu – about half and half tofu and beef minced together. This has the effect of making them perfectly light, and, as you don’t have to use as much meat, it’s a good way of making it stretch. It’s also pretty much the only way I’m going to expect Tom to eat tofu. And he couldn’t guess what the ‘secret ingredient’ was, so make these for other tofu-sceptics with impunity.

The meatballs are assembled quickly enough, simmered in stock fragranced delicately with ginger and spring onions, and then you’re free to eat them however you like. The recipe notes that in Korea it would traditionally be served as part of a selection of main dishes, but Madhur eats it alone with a green salad. I ladled mine over a mound of short grain brown rice. Tom had noodles (of course).

Meatball soup (wanja kuk)  Serves 4

150-175g bean curd
2 cloves garlic
4 spring onions
225g lean minced beef
1 tbsp Japanese soy sauce (shoyu)
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
2 pints/1.1 litres chicken, beef or pork stock
1 cm cube ginger
65g plain flour
1 egg

Put the beancurd in a clean cloth and squeeze out as much moisture as you can, then tip the beancurd into a mixing bowl and mash it with a fork. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Cut 2 of the spring onions crossways into very fine rounds, reserving the other 2 for the stock.

Add the garlic and sliced spring onions to the bowl with the beancurd and then add the beef mince, soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Mix well and roll into about 20 meatballs – about the size of a walnut (I only managed 18).

Put the stock in a large pan. Cut the remaining spring onions into 5 cm lengths. Peel the ginger and cut it into thin slices. Add the ginger and spring onions to the stock and bring it to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 8-10 minutes. Salt the stock to your taste and keep it at a simmer.

Meanwhile, put the flour onto a plate and beat the egg lightly in a bowl. Roll each meatball first in the flour and then the egg and then drop into the simmering soup. You should try to make sure there isn’t too much loose flour on the meatballs as it will turn into a paste when it meets the soup – it doesn’t really matter, but doesn’t look too attractive, as I discovered. Simmer the meatballs for about 5 minutes and then serve the soup however you wish.

From ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery’.


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