Shrimp Balls

Xiayuan

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Flavor: UniqueMeal: Almost in Advance, FriedDinner: Menu

    Despite its regional differences, China has essentially been, throughout most of its long history, one country with a unified culture. The written language bears this out, and so, too, does the food. Provincial cuisines are quite distinctive, but cooking methods like chao, or stir-frying, are much the same all over China. You can find chaomian, or fried noodles, everywhere. Shrimp balls are equally ubiquitous. We have no idea where these deep-fried chopped pork and shrimp balls originated. The lightest and most delicate ones in Taipei were served at a restaurant specializing in the food of Shensi, a province in northwestern China. The Szechwanese shrimp ball, as prepared by Mrs. Chiang, is somewhat more substantial, and extraordinarily fragrant due to the liberal use of ground Szechwan peppercorns.

    Shrimp balls are not difficult to make. Since the batter can be prepared several hours in advance, they are convenient for dinner or cocktail parties. Cooked ones get soggy, however, if not eaten fairly soon after they are fried. Mrs. Chiang points out that the consistency of the balls depends on the fattiness of the pork you use — the fattier the pork, the lighter the Shrimp Balls. Water chestnuts are used to make each shrimp ball as crunchy inside as it is outside. Since fresh ones are often hard to find and canned ones no substitute, you may have to omit them. The texture of the shrimp balls will be less interesting, but the taste will be the same.

    Fried foods are rarely eaten plain in China, but are usually accompanied by a dip sauce or a dish of seasoned salt. The best dip for these shrimp balls is a simple mixture of regular black pepper and salt.

    Method

    Preparation

    ¾ pound ground pork, preferably fatty

    3 tablespoons soy sauce

    2 tablespoons sesame oil

    Put the pork in a large mixing bowl and add the soy sauce and sesame oil to it.
    4 scallions Clean the scallions, then chop the white part into tiny pieces, about the size of a match head; add to the pork.
    1-½ inch piece of fresh ginger Peel the ginger, then chop it very fine, until it reaches the consistency of coarse bread crumbs; add to the pork.
    1 pound medium shrimps Shell the shrimps and, if desired, devein them as well. Then chop — or rather pulverize — them. (The way Mrs. Chiang does this is by giving each shrimp a good solid whack with the flat side of the cleaver. Then, after all are mashed, she finishes the job by giving them about 100 strokes with the cleaver.) All the chopping should transform the shrimp into a sticky gray mass that resembles library paste far more than it does seafood. Add it to the pork.
    7 fresh water chestnuts (optional) Cut off the dark outer skin, then chop the water chestnuts into tiny pieces the same size as the chopped scallions; add them to the pork mixture.

    2 teaspoons salt

    2 egg whites

    1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking sherry

    1-¼ teaspoons ground, roasted Szechwan peppercorns

    1 cup cornstarch

    Finally add the salt, egg whites, wine, Szechwan peppercorns, and cornstarch to the meat. Mix well with a wooden spoon, giving the mixture at least 40 vigorous strokes to make sure it is thoroughly blended.

    Cooking

    3-½ cups peanut or other cooking oil, approximately

    Fill your wok or whatever pan you normally use for deep frying with about 4 inches of oil. Put it over a high flame and let the oil get really hot.

    While you are waiting for the oil to get hot, you can start forming the shrimp balls. Use your hands and a large wet spoon to mold the meat and shrimp mixture into balls about the size of a large plum. (It helps to have a small bowl of water nearby to keep the spoon and your hands moist.) This recipe should yield about 15 or 16 balls, but, since a normal wok will only hold about 8 balls, you will have to cook them in several batches.

    Drop the balls carefully into the hot oil, separating them so they don’t stick together while cooking, then lower the flame slightly and let the shrimp balls cook for about 8 minutes, turning them gently, until they become a deep golden brown all over.

    1-½ teaspoons salt

    1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

    Remove them from the oil and let them drain on paper towels for 30 seconds before you serve them, accompanied by a dip made by mixing the salt and black pepper thoroughly together; put the mixture into individual small dishes and set them out on the dinner table.