JeJu

Taiwanese Meat Ball Pie (Ba-Wan 肉圓)

In food on 01/08/2009 at 11:19 am

I’m watching Michael Chiarello’s show Easy Entertaining; the Food Network and HGTV are my two channels to flip on when I want some background noise. He’s like the cool uncle, the guy who makes everything look easy peasy, never breaking a sweat. He’s the Fonz, grown up, who decided to get a job and make something of himself. The show is a little schmaltzy, all pseudo-Tuscan and Napa, but he seems like a mellow dude.

That same feeling of comfort around some people, that’s also the best when it comes to food. I have a beat up blue Mead spiral notebook of recipes I scribbled down one summer when I was home from college, when I decided to learn how to cook. It contains all my favorite childhood dishes.  The ultimate is #4, Ba-Wan,  something unlike anything you’ve ever tried, but a little like everything you ever craved about home-cooking; it is a self-enclosed square meal, with a QQ wrapping made of gooey chewiness, a garlicky umami gravy, and a combination of flavors that make you want more more more.

Dough Ingredients:

2.5 cups rice flour

11 cups water

5 cups potato flour

Makes 21 small pies the size of an egg tart. I bought my tins from a Chinese restaurant supply store on Lafayette and Houston. They are actually ice cream dishes. Oil the tins.

Pour rice flour into water. Mix until dissolved. I use a whisk; try not to churn bubbles.

Put pot on high. Stir in ONE DIRECTION until bubbles form on surface. Take off heat and cool down in water bath. I plug up the kitchen sink and fill it up with cold water. Keep stirring in same direction. (This one direction business is key to making it super QQ)

Add potato flour 1 cup at a time when there’s no more steam rising from the pot. Keep stirring in same direction! The final consistency should be gloopey, easy to scoop into the tin, like chocolate pudding when hot.

Filling:

a ground meat (pork, chicken, shrimp) + veggies such as shittake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts

soy sauce and roasted sesame oil to bind

Layer tin with a scoop of dough, then filling, then top off with dough. Make it nice and smooth.

Steam 25 minutes.

Gravy:

1 part soy sauce

1 part water

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp cornstarch

Grated garlic (the more the better)

The ba-wan vendor outside my parent’s apartment in Taipei and everywhere else seem to favor a sweetish ketchup-based gravy. I prefer Mother’s savory gravy, with a kick-to-the-nuts raw garlic sting. Add soy sauce and sugar to water. Dissolve the cornstarch in a bowl with a little water. After the gravy starts boiling, add the cornstarch and stir till thickened. Take off the heat so none of the garlic flavor is degraded. Add the grated garlic (approx. 1 clove per pie) and mix well. Top your room temperature ba-wan (chopped cilantro too if you have it laying around) and have an orgasm in your mouth. Truly.

Freeze extra pies. Defrost and re-steam 10 min, or pan fry like dumplings (i.e. fry in hot oil, then steam by pouring a little water and cover until warmed through)

ba-wan

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