Joys of Empire

Monday, November 1, 2010

When I was a very very little girl we lived in London for a while.
I am old enough that this was before the gastro-revolution that’s turned England into a mecca for Mediterranean cooking done comfort style, but, ironically, I think that there was more authentic, and interesting, and veven good food, to be found then-- in the 70s--than now.

England is far to the north; the reason the vegetables traditionally get cooked to death is that they are not particualrly flavorsome left tender-cooked, or raw, or served with just a little aioli. The vegetables need the long cook, the addition of spices, of broths, a little dairy. The Mediterranean style restaurants that dominate the British landscape of today rely heavily on imported vegetables, and obviously, imported cuisine: it’s not authentic to the land, or he people.

Honestly the “nursery food” was pretty awful when I was a kid, but bangers and mash CAN be done right: it simply, like all other cooking, requires a little hand, some presence of mind.
But what I really loved as a child was the immigrant food-- the incredible curries (yes! even as a 5 yeard old!), the chaat, samosas, poori is still my great love. Having never been to India (yet), my marker for all Indian food is always London. And after 300 years, India has had an indelible effect on Britain-- there is more authenticity to eating curry prepared- even by a with britisher- than roasted red peppers

And then there were the regular (monthly?) trips to SoHo. I think it was still, then, a bit gang-landy, but it also (or maybe because) had some of that subversive chic going for it. It was simultaneously slummy and very sophisticated. And I am not quite sure what my parents were doing taking me there, but I loved the food, and still cook some of the dishes from my memory. I think the SoHo Tiger must have made me special kid food, as I haven’t come across Pork Balls anywhere else.Or perhaps Chinese immigrants in London were from a different region than those that have set up shop in the U.S.

Whatever the case, last week,while M was away, I the Pork Balls.J and I ate a whole half pound between us, and I think he would have eaten more. I served these with some steamed bok choy and rice-- but next time I think I might try one or two of the other dishes I remember from London: Mushroom Stir Fry, Spare Ribs, Fish Quenelles. The British do have good meat, and of course the fish is fantastic. So maybe we’ll just have a double portion of Pork Balls, in commemoration. They are that good.

Pork Balls
3 cloves (about 1/2 tbs) Garlic, minced
1 bunch Scallions, finely chopped
3 tbs fresh grated Ginger
Dash of Cayenne
1/2 lb ground Pork
1 Tbs Soy Sauce
1 Tsp fish Sauce
1 Tsp Brown Sugar
1Egg, beaten
1/4 c Flour (or half- and-half mix of cornstarch and flour)
1/4 c Peanut or Safflower oil

Combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, and fish sauce in a small bowl.In a separate, large bowl, place the Pork, and add the garlic, scallions, ginger, and cayenne, one by one, incorporating (by hand) after each-- try to handle only as much as it takes to mix in the spices.
Pour the liquid ingredients over the top and let rest about 20 minutes, then fold in/mop the liquid ingredients, making a large ball of the sausage, but again trying not to “pack firm”.Let marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours-- the remaining prep and cooking only takes about 20 minutes total.

Heat about half the oil in a wok or if using a deep skillet, heat all of it. Form pork into 1-2 inch balls, dip in the egg, and roll, very lightly, in the flour. Drop 4-6 balls at a time in the oil, turning down the heat after the first 3 minutes, and turning it back up in between batches. The balls take about 6 minutes each to cook. Add the remaining oil half way through if/as needed.

Drain on paper towels, and serve with rice and soy sauce. I cut a serrano up and added this to 3 tbs soy,1 tsp vinagar, 1 ts dried ginger, as I Iike things a bit spicier than J.
This dish should serve 3-4 with rice and a vegetable... or 2 very hungry people.

No comments: