Sunday, September 29, 2013

Will's Red Braised Lion Heads


I'm finally writing this one up after sitting on it for a while--it's a good one! Remember that red braised lion head (hongshao shizitou) recipe from a while back? Well, I've made further modifications, pulling in some insights drawn from a certain "Japanese-style hamburger" (wafuu hanbaagu) recipe and my reactions to another shizitou dish at a restaurant in Richmond, VA (that one wasn't red braised).

The key difference is that I mix in tofu with my ground pork to make the meatballs. However, I think it's important to use medium to firm tofu rather than silken. This makes the meatballs very tender--without feeling insubstantial. This was the thing I didn't like about that Richmond restaurant's shizitou; you didn't feel like you were biting into anything.

Also, I think the dusting with starch in the previous version I posted is an extra hassle that doesn't really add to the dish. I include some starch to help bind the meatballs, but they don't need a coat of starch on the outside to hold together.

Here's my new version:

Will’s Braised Lion Heads 紅燒獅子頭

lion heads
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. soft tofu (but not silken)
(8 water chestnuts or 1 carrot, large mince, optional)
3 scallions, minced
1 TBS ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
4 TBS water (one for each quarter-pound of ground pork)
2 tsp sesame oil
1 TBS rice wine
1 tsp salt
2 tsp tapioca starch

1 TBS peanut oil

braising soup
1 TBS dark soy sauce
3 TBS light soy sauce
1 TBS brown sugar
1 1/4 cup chicken stock

potato flour slurry
2/3 tsp potato flour
2/3 tsp water

Sliced scallions for garnish
  1. Combine potato flour slurry ingredients in small bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine braising soup ingredients in another container and set aside.
  3. Wrap tofu in a non-terry kitchen towel or cheesecloth and squeeze out as much fluid as possible (discard the fluid).
  4. Combine lion heads ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well and form into large meatballs about 2.5” in diameter.
  5. Heat skillet or wok over medium heat with peanut oil. When oil slides easily over the cooking surface, add meatballs carefully and brown on all sides, rolling and turning very gently.
  6. Gently add the meatballs to a 2- to 3-quart pot (or sand pot, sha guo) and pour in braising soup ingredients. Simmer on low for 1.5 hours, turning meatballs halfway through.
  7. When done, carefully remove meatballs to a plate. Reduce braising liquid to taste. Stir potato flour slurry to re-suspend the flour in the water, and add slurry in a stream while stirring the sauce until liquid is thickened, coating spoon thickly, but still runs.  Pour sauce over lion heads and garnish with scallions.

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