~ Chinese Sweet & Sour Pork Meatballs w/Lo Mein ~
Chinese spaghetti and meatballs. That's what my boys named this meal, they loved it, and, just saying it brings a reminiscent smile to my face. In reality, it was just me serving some easy-to-make sweet-and-sour-sauced pork meatballs atop a package of store-bought fresh Chinese egg noodles for a change-of-pace dinner. On occasion, I served the meatballs with cooked and drained, spaghetti-esque lo-mein noodles too, but, my kids preferred the yellow-colored fresh ones better, so, whenever my Asian market had them in stock, that's what I bought.
Doesn't this trio look yummy? Having just spent the week writing a series of posts about and for sweet and sour sauce (just click into Category 13 to learn how I make ~ Sweet & Sour Sauce for Seafood, Poultry or Pork ~, ~ Stick It: Sweet & Sour Shrimp & Pineapple Kabobs ~, and, ~ A Chinese Cantonese Classic: Sweet & Sour Pork ~), I decided I'd be remiss if I didn't conclude with this kid-tested, mother approved fourth.
Part One: Making the Sauce (+ a bit of sauce history too)
The first Chinese immigrants to the US were mostly Cantonese, and, Canton, China is the home of the famous "sweet and sour pork" dish eaten annually for Chinese New Year. With the Cantonese came their love for bright, bold flavor and fresh ingredients -- their sauce is a perfect balance of sugar, vinegar, chile pepper and ginger. It was we Americans who added ketchup to it, and, don't laugh, it's so good, the Chinese adopted it. If you've never tasted homemade sweet and sour sauce, prepare to be wowed, because: unless you're eating it in a place that makes their own, sadly, it's a concoction of corn syrup, citric acid and food coloring.
Anyone, anywhere can do better than that in 3 easy steps in less than 10 minutes!
1/3 cup each: brown sugar, orange juice and rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-3 tablespoons, peeled, thinly-sliced, then minced ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
~Step 1. In a 1-quart measuring container, stir together the water, ketchup, dark brown sugar, orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. Set aside. Peel, thinly-slice and mince the ginger as directed and set aside. Stir together the cornstarch and water. Set aside.
~Step 2. Place the vegetable oil in a 1-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and sauté, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 45-60 seconds. Add all of the liquid mixture from Step 1 and adjust heat to simmer steadily, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.
~ Step 3. Add cornstarch/water mixture and simmer gently until nicely thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a food storage container. Use as directed in specific recipe or store in refrigerator 1-2 weeks.
Part Two: Making Mel's E-Z as 1-2-3 Chinese Pork Meatballs
As far as meatball making goes, these are "as easy as it gets". There's more: the end result, is "as good as it gets". In a matter of minutes, my food processor does all of the hard work. It grinds the meat, then minces and mixes the remaining three ingredients and the spices. I use an ice-cream scoop to quickly portion and form the mixture into meatballs, placing them on a baking pan as I work. Into the oven they go and 15 minutes later: they're done. The process is so stress-free, I always make a double or triple batch and freeze them for 1-2-3 more meals.
2-2 1/4 pounds pork loin, trimmed of all visible fat, cut into 1/2"-3/4" slices, slices cut into 1/2"-3/4" cubes (boneless, skinless chicken breast may be substituted) (Note: I purchase a 3 pound piece of pork loin & after trimming the math works out right.)
4 ounces green onion, white and light green part only, cut into 1 1/2"-2" lengths
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 8-ounce cans sliced water chestnuts, well-drained
4 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons white pepper
~Step 1. Prep pork as directed, placing it in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade as you work. Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, grind meat, then transfer it to a large bowl. Don't wash the work bowl or blade. Add onion, breadcrumbs and water chestnuts to the work bowl. Using a series of 15-20 rapid on-of pulses, mince and combine all. Add eggs, soy sauce, ginger, salt and pepper. Turn motor on and process to a paste, 10-15 seconds.
~ Step 2. Transfer paste to the bowl with the ground meat. Using your hands, thoroughly combine the two. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the panko breadcrumbs to absorb excess moisture for about 25-30 minutes.
~ Step 3. Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, roll meatballs between the palms of your hands and place them, slightly apart on each of 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans that have been lined with parchment paper. Bake, one-pan-at-a-time on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, 18-20 minutes. Meatballs will be firm, sizzling a bit, and, turning a light golden brown in color. Remove from oven and use as directed in recipe or cool on pans prior to portioning and freezing.
Note: Yes, of course you can fry the meatballs conventionally, in batches, in any large-size skillet containing a thin coating of corn or peanut oil. When I do that, I use my 16" electric skillet. It allows me to fry in two batches of 30-35, which is the same amount of meatballs that are on each of the baking pans.
Part Three: The Pineapple, Veggies, Noodles, &, a Quick Stir-Fry
6-8 tablespoons minced, fresh ginger
1 1/4-1 1/2 cups each: 1/2"-3/4" diced green & red bell pepper, and, yellow or sweet onion
3 cups 1/2"-3/4" chunked fresh pineapple
30-35 baked or fried pork meatballs, from above recipe, warm or at room temperature
1 1/2-2 cups sweet and sour sauce, from above recipe, warmed
1 16-ounce package fully-cooked, fresh Chinese egg noodles*, or, 1 16-ounce package dried Chinese lo-mein noodles, cooked according to package directions
*A bit about Chinese Egg noodles: The Chinese have an almost overwhelming variety of noodles to choose from. Fresh Chinese egg noodles (the four most common being thin and wide wonton noodles, and, Hong-Kong-style chow mein noodles and lo mein noodles), found in all Asian markets (and larger grocery stores) are made with wheat flour and eggs and are yellow in color (which is often attributed to the addition of yellow dye). Fresh egg noodles are also cooked to the point of only needing to be briefly reheated in a pot of simmering water or broth, and/or, tossed into a stir-fry at the end of the cooking process. If kept sealed, they keep in the refrigerator about a week, and, once opened, for best results, should be used within 24 hours.
~Step 1. In a 16" electric skillet or a large 14" skillet on the stovetop, heat 6-8 tablespoons corn or peanut oil over medium-high heat. Add ginger and sauté until fragrant, but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the diced bell peppers and onion and sauté, stirring constantly, until vegetables are starting to soften, 1 1/2-2 minutes. Add the pineapple chunks and continue to sauté, 1 1/2-2 minutes. Add the meatballs and sauté until heated through, about 1 minute.
~Step 2. Cut a small 1" slit in the top of the package of fresh Chinese egg noodles and reheat them on high power in the microwave oven for about 1 minute. Add the hot, reheated Chinese egg noodles, or, the cooked, drained and hot lo-mein noodles to the skillet. Sauté, tossing constantly until heated through, about 1 minute.
Chinese noodle trivia: The word "lo mein" comes from the Chinese Cantonese word "lou mihn" meaning "stirred noodles", with the word "lou" meaning "to stir".
~ Step 3. Adjust heat to very low or turn the heat off. Add 1 1/2 cups of the warm or reheated sauce, in 1/2 cup increments, tossing like you would a salad using two large forks or spoons after each addition, until all ingredients are evenly coated. Add the last 1/2 cup sauce, only if you think you need it. Do not over sauce. Portion into four warmed pasta-type bowls or onto plates and serve immediately.
Chinese Spaghetti & Meatballs:
Special Equipment List: 1-quart measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-quart saucepan; large spoon; 2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; food processor; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; 16" electric skillet or large 14" skillet on the stovetop
Cook's Note: Another dish I learned to cook using fresh Chinese egg noodles was via a hands on lesson from Chef Martin Yan, in person. You can find my recipe for ~ Chinese Chicken Chow Mein a la Melanie ~ by clicking into Categories 3, 13, 19 or 26!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)