Monday, September 1, 2014

Steamed Beef Balls (Shan Zhu Niu Rou)

This dish is a popular item on the Dim Sum menu. They are not beef balls a la Rocky Mountain oysters, but rather steamed meatballs made from finely minced ground beef that has first been marinated in baking soda (helps to tenderize), then seasoned with, amongst other things, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, pepper, minced ginger, cilantro, and a small amount of grated orange peel. The addition of cornstarch, egg white and water makes the meatballs extra smooth, moist, light, and tender. The meat will not crumble apart and, after steaming, has the consistency more like that of a Chinese fish ball rather than a conventional meatball (sounds kinda weird, but it's actually really good). A cinch to make, especially if you have a food processor. This recipe makes 12 meatballs.

1 lb. ground beef (do not use anything with less than an 85: 15 meat to fat ratio, or else the meatballs will not be on the tough side)

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. freshly grated orange peel
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. rice wine
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 egg white
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
2 tbsp. minced scallion
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp. minced water chestnuts (optional)
1/2 cup cold water

Dried tofu sheets
Nappa cabbage leaves

Chinese sweet hot mustard
Chile garlic sauce
Oyster sauce
Worcestershire sauce

1. Place the ground beef into a medium bowl, add the baking soda, and mix very well with your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.

2. Place the ground beef into the bowl of a food processor. Add all the seasoning ingredients,  place the cover on the processor and pulse the mixture about 20-30 times until very well blended (almost to a paste-like consistency). Alternatively, if you don't have a food processor, your will need to blend the mixture well by hand, form into a ball, and then slap that sucker really hard against the side of the bowl for 40-50 times to achieve that same paste-like consistency. If you've had a bad day, this is an excellent way to take out your aggression. 

3. Remove the meat mixture into a medium bowl.

4. Fill a medium bowl with cool tap water & set aside (this is for dipping your hands into before shaping each meatball to help prevent sticking).

3. Traditionally, beef balls are steamed over softened bean curd skins/tofu sheets which are readily available in most Chinese markets. However, if you can't find these, feel free to substitute with fresh nappa cabbage leaves. When I made these yesterday to photograph and post to this blog, I used nappa cabbage leaves to line the bottom of the steamer. Next time, I'll use the tofu skins and post additional photos to show how to soften them and use in this recipe. Anyhoo, line the bottom of a bamboo or stainless steel steamer with either the tofu skins or nappa cabbage leaves.

4. Dip you hands into the bowl of water, then grab a golf ball-sized piece of the meat mixture, and roll into a ball. Place on the tofu skin or cabbage-lined steamer. Continue until you've made a total of 12 meatballs (do not overcrowd the meatballs in your steamer; make sure they're at least an inch apart).

5. Place the steamer over a large wok or pan of water, turn to medium high heat. Once the water has come to a boil, stream for 6-8 minutes, or until the beef is just cooked through. 

6. You can serve them 3 at a time in small individual bamboo steamers to each of your guests, or as is (family style). Serve with any or all of the above listed condiments. 

NOTE: In my research for this recipe, I've read that some versions actually use a 12:1 beef to ground pork ratio and that a few green peas are sometimes added to or around the beef balls before serving. Will try both down the line to see how they taste. 

1 lb. ground beef. 

Add 1 tsp. baking soda.  

Mix well by hand, cover and refrigerate 3-4 hours.  

1 tsp. grated fresh orange peel.  

Cornstarch, light soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, white pepper, and salt . 

Water, egg white, minced cilantro, scallion, ginger & water chestnut, sugar, sesame oil, black & white pepper, salt, vegetable oil, light soy & oyster sauce, cornstarch, and orange peel.  

Add all the seasoning ingredients to the ground beef in a food processor and pulse 20-30 times until very well blended. 

If you don't have a food processor, just form into a ball and slap the sucker against the side of the bowl 40-50 times. Yeah! 

Dip your hands in water before shaping each meatball to prevent sticking.  

Place the meatballs onto a tofu skin or cabbage lined steamer (this recipe yields 12 meatballs).

Cover and steam for 6-8 minutes or until the meatballs are just done.  

Two fav condiments (dipping sauces) are chile garlic sauce and Chinese sweet and hot mustard. Oyster sauce and (believe it or not) Worcestershire sauce are also good accompaniments.  

 You can serve family style (all in one steamer)

Or in individual smaller steamers, along with a selection of dipping sauces. 

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