Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Taiwanese Meat Rounds 肉圓

This is the first of a series of Taiwanese food posts, as I was lucky enough to have my parents in town for the week. Given that The Husband and I are both Taiwanese and feel strongly that our children be immersed in the culture, it has always been top priority for me to learn how to cook Taiwanese cuisine.

For people who have no experience with Taiwanese food, these posts will hopefully tempt you to expand your palate or at least inspire you to try something new. For those who have had these dishes before, you can now add these recipes to your family cookbooks.

Taiwanese meat rounds are typically eaten as a Taiwanese street food aka 台灣小吃, but often can be incorporated as a lunch or dinner item as well. This dish consists of a filling and then an outer layer of rice wrapping. Please keep in mind that these recipes are estimates and every Taiwanese momma has her own recipe that they swear by - so go and test several out!

Taiwanese Meat Rounds
yields approximately 18-20 servings

For Rice Wrapping (yes, Taiwan is on the metric system - you can use a food scale to measure)
150 g Rice flour
1500 g cold water
410 g Tapioca flour
410 g Sweet potato flour

1. Combine rice flour and cold water and cook at medium high heat until thickened (similar texture to a roux). Allow to cool until body temperature to touch.

2. Once cooled, include the tapioca and sweet potato flours in small sections and whisk into rice flour and water "roux" mixture until smooth. 

3. Set aside until filling is ready. 

For Filling (approximate amounts, * indicates amount based on taste preference)
2 Bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
10 Dried shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2-3 Shallots, chopped
1 lb+ Pork tenderloin, thinly sliced – marinated with garlic, 5 spice, soy sauce, white pepper, rice wine (in advance)
*Vegetable hoisin
*Soy sauce
*White pepper
Fried shallots
Pinch of salt

1. Sauté shallots until fragrant. Add pork slices. Add mushrooms and then bamboo shoots.

2. Add the vegetable hoisin, soy sauce, salt, and white pepper to taste. At the end, add a sprinkle of fried shallots. 

Note: The rice wrappings have no salt or flavor. The majority of the flavor will come from the filling, which should be well-seasoned, but not overly salted. 

To Combine

There are actual meat circle platters that you can purchase in Taiwan or (if you are lucky) your local Asian store. Instead, we used some metal saucer-looking things that we typically use to make our mise en place. 

1. Prior to combining the rice wrapping and filling, lightly oil the surface of the metal saucer with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. 

2. Fill the saucers with a 1 cm layer of the rice wrapping and then add the filling in the middle. Top off with more of the rice wrapping. 

3.  Bring a steamer pot to a full boil and then steam the meat circles for 15 minutes. The rice wrapping should become almost translucent or clear rather than the original white. 

4. Let cool for a few minutes as the rice wrapping will at first be sticky and then become more firm. Once firmed, remove meat rounds from platters gently with your fingers. 

5. Serve with sweet chili sauce and garnish with cilantro. 

The great thing about these meat rounds is that they can be kept in the fridge or frozen. If reheated from the fridge, they can simply be microwaved or re-steamed. Otherwise from the freezer, you can re-steam them and they will be back to their original texture and flavor. 

I'd like to dedicate these next several posts to my momma. The best Taiwanese chef I know! 

May you have an adventurous Wednesday. :)