Fry

DimSum Duo To Clean Out the Frig: Pork Pearl Balls & Curried Eggplant Sandwiches

December 29, 2015
Photo by LE BEC FIN
Author Notes

So we're STILL talking about cleaning out the frig? Well, I took care of all those Mediterranean leftovers with my Persian Soup with Everything ,and Lasagna with Red Chard Agro Dolce, Comte, Beans and Walnuts. But what about the ground pork, shiitakes, eggplants and the little bits of Asian residing in the frig's far corners ?
Some 40 years ago at my first dim-sum place (long gone), I loved their tender little eggplant sandwiches filled with curried pork. I have never seen that dish since then and have long wanted to duplicate it, so that became my goal. I began with Martha Stewart's Pork Pearl Balls filling (one of my more popular hors d'oeuvre) to which I added fresh shiitake (a vast improvement over my waaay old dried shiitakes) , Jerusalem artichokes, (which I prefer to canned water chestnuts for nutty crunch)Madras curry powder, cumin and coriander. I kept some of the un-curried pork mixture so I'd have two different dimsum to offer. I also decided to try a deep fried Eggplant sandwich as well (I am a sucker for crunchy). But there's no need to feel compelled to make all of these; your lucky guest(s) will be happy either way! —LE BEC FIN

  • Makes ~35 balls plus ~10 crescent sandwiches
Ingredients
  • Pork Pearl Balls
  • 1 1/2 cup sweet rice/sushi rice
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 8 or 1/2 cup fresh shiitake caps, minced and sauteed in oil
  • 1/2 cup Jerusalem Artichoke, unpeeled, minced
  • 3 T. minced peeled ginger
  • 1/3 cup minced scallions
  • 1/8 cup dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten with fork
  • 2 1/2 T. cornstarch
  • Soy sauce or Tamari
  • unseasoned rice vinegar or Chungkiang (brown)vinegar
  • optional sesame oil, chili oil, sugar,grated peeled ginger, minced scallions
  • Curried Pork Filling for Eggplant Sandwiches
  • Half pork ball mixture from above (~ 20 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 T. Good quality Madras curry powder (I like Sun brand)
  • a heaping 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (that has been dry pan-toasted and ground)
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (that has been dry pan-toasted and ground)
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Soak rice in water to cover, 4 hours or overnight; drain in colander or sieve. Combine pork through cornstarch and mix well. If you have time, this mixture improves by letting it sit in the frig for a day. My mixture weighed 39 ounces. Remove half the mixture for Curried Pork filling.
  2. Form the remaining half into ~ 1" diameter balls. This can be done quickest by piping balls onto a tray* (you don't need a metal piping tip,just the cut-off bag tip) or you can roll each ball in the palms of your hands- dipped- in- water; or you can take a small fistful of mixture(again, in your wetted hands) and squeeze it, forcing it out of the opening you make between your thumb and first finger. After you have formed all your pork balls, place a few at a time into a small bowl of your drained rice; roll the bowl around, coating the balls completely. Transfer to a sheet pan. **
  3. Once all the Pork Pearl Balls are formed and coated, place in a single layer in a steamer (if you don't have a steamer, just follow web directions for how to improvise your own simple steamer.) Over water that has been brought to a boil, steam the balls 10 minutes til cooked through and firm, and rice is cooked through and chewy. Serve in a flat-bottomed shallow bowl with toothpicks or a spoon. From the edge of the bowl, pour into it a thin pool of dipping sauce of (at least)soy sauce and unseasoned rice wine vinegar (with optional additions of chili oil, sesame oil, pinch of sugar, minced scallions and grated peeled ginger.)
  4. *My No -Muss Piping Bag Technique: https://food52.com/recipes/16858-no-muss-piping-bag-technique
  5. -My well-loved Chinese steamer(can double as a colander too!): https://food52.com/recipes/16931-best-way-to-boil-veggies-don-t-steam-em-instead
  6. ** If you want to cook these tomorrow , store them on a double thickness of paper towels in a tightly covered container with thick paper towels between the single layers.
  7. CURRIED PORK FILLING: With a fork, thoroughly add this spice mix to the half of the Pork Ball mixture that was set aside. Cook a sample eggplant sandwich and see if the curry flavor is strong enough for you. If too mild, this is the time to add more curry mixture as needed.
  8. ASSEMBLING AND COOKING CURRIED PORK EGGPLANT SANDWICHES: If you have the preferred lavender small Asian eggplants (less bitter and smaller diameter than the dark purple)Slice eggplant into 1/3-1/2" slices, leaving skin on. Place 1/3 " layer of curried pork filling between two slices, pressing slightly to get pork to come out to the edges. Dip your fingers in a bowl of water. Run your fingers around the sandwich and press in/ neaten the edge of filling. Place the sandwiches in a single layer on a sheet pan or top with paper towels and a second layer (to save counter space.)
  9. If you only have dark purple eggplant with lots of seeds(mine was like this in December in Boston, and it was decidedly bitter) slice it straight across ,1 1/2 " thick, and then cut a slice through the middle of the thick piece, almost all the way through, creating a clamshell effect. Follow Kenji Lopez-Alt's method for de-bittering the eggplant in a microwave. Stuff each clamshell with 1/3" layer of curried pork, being sure to force some into the inner hinge area. Clean up the edges as directed above. If your rounds are 3"+ diameter, cut the filled clamshells in half, cutting through the middle of the hinge. http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/02/the-food-lab-all-american-eggplant-parmesan.html
  10. COOKING THE SANDWICHES: In a skillet, pour a thin coating of canola oil and heat til hot. Place sandwiches into the oil and brown on both sides, being careful not to burn (~ 5-8 minutes total) with a lid on for the last few minutes. Remove a sandwich from the pan; cut into it to assure the pork filling is cooked through and no rawness remains. Cook longer if necessary. Remove to paper towels and serve with dipping sauce on the side.***
  11. ***If you also want some Crunchy Fried Pork and Eggplant Sandwiches: after the eggplant has been filled with the curried pork, dip both sides of the sandwich and the edges - into cornstarch and then into a beaten egg wash and then into panko, coating well. In a shallow layer of hot oil ~1/2" deep, fry the sandwiches til well browned on each side and the edges, ~ 6-10 minutes total). Adjust your oil temperature accordingly; you don't want it so hot that it quickly cooks the outside but not the interior. Remove a sample and cut to make sure center is cooked through. Serve with your choice of dipping sauce on the side.

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I am always on the lookout for innovative recipes, which is why I am just ga-ga over my recently- discovered Food52 with its amazingly innovative and talented contributors. My particular eating passions are Japanese, Indian, Mexican; with Italian and French following close behind. Turkish/Arabic/Mediterranean cuisines are my latest culinary fascination. My desert island ABCs are actually 4 Cs: citrus, cumin, cilantro, and cardamom. I am also finally indulging in learning about food history; it gives me no end of delight to learn how and when globe artichokes came to the U.S., and how and when Jerusalem artichokes went from North America to Europe. And that the Americas enabled other cuisines to become glorious. I mean where would those countries be without: Corn, Tomatoes, Chiles,Peanuts, Dried Beans, Pecans, Jerusalem Artichokes??! While I am an omnivore, I am, perhaps more than anything, fascinated by the the world of carbohydrates, particularly the innovative diversity of uses for beans, lentils and grains in South Indian and other cuisines. Baking gives me much pleasure, and of all the things I wish would change in American food, it is that we would develop an appreciation for sweet foods that are not cloyingly sweet, and that contain more multigrains. (Wouldn't it be fantastic to have a country of great bakeries instead of the drek that we have in the U.S.?!) I am so excited by the level of sophistication that I see on Food52 and hope to contribute recipes that will inspire you like yours do me. I would like to ask a favor of all who do try a recipe of mine > Would you plse write me and tell me truthfully how it worked for you and/or how you think it would be better? I know many times we feel that we don't want to hurt someone's feelings, but. i really do want your honest feedback because it can only help me improve the recipe.Thanks so much.