As we worked our way through our collection of cookbooks, we learned that we’ve got a couple of books specifically focused on the art of the stir-fry. Throwbacks to our earlier, less confident cooking days, they provided us with recipes whose greatest challenges were making sure that we added the right ingredients in the right order. Although the meals were usually satisfying, we’ve drifted away from these books as we’ve expanded our horizons.
But our Joyce Chen non-stick wok has stuck with us, and we knew it would be seeing some use during the course of the June Cookbook Challenge. Today we’ll be sharing three recipes that reminded us why we were such big fans of wok cooking to begin with.
The first comes from a no-frills volume called, appropriate enough, Stir Frys. It boasts “over 60 simple recipes for great home cooking!” But we wanted to stretch ourselves…even when it came to stir-fry cooking. So we flipped through the recipes until we came across an entry for “Spicy Pork Meatballs.” We knew we had some ground pork from Cedarbrook Farms in the freezer, and we were intrigued by the second ingredient in the recipe: 6 ounces white crab meat. We had found our winner.
To start, we combined 8 ounces ground pork with 6 ounces drained (squeezed) crab meat in a large bowl. We grated a 2-inch piece of peeled ginger, crushed 2 garlic cloves, seeded and chopped 2 red chiles, and roughly chopped 2 handfuls of cilantro leaves. Then we added half of each to the crab and pork mixture with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.
After all of these ingredients had been thoroughly combined, we formed the mixture into small round meatballs – the recipe suggested we might get about 24 out of the mixture, but we were a bit more generous with ours and ended up with only 17. We coated the meatballs in ¼ cup cornstarch to prepare them for frying.
Using ¾ cup peanut oil, which we heated in the wok until it was hot but not smoking, we fried the meatballs in four batches, turning them occasionally over the course of 3 or 4 minutes. When they looked golden brown in most places we removed them with a wire scoop and set them on a cooling rack covered with paper towels to drain.
When all the meatballs were finished, we poured out the oil in the wok, wiped it down, and returned ALL of the meatballs to the wok at once. We added the remaining ginger, garlic, and chiles and added 3 cups hot chicken stock and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. From there we sprinkled in 1 teaspoon sugar and some salt and pepper, and then we covered the wok so it come simmer/steam for 15 minutes.
We shredded some Napa cabbage to add in at the end of the cooking (the recipe called for Chinese cabbage), and served the whole thing hot garnished with cilantro, red pepper and shredded scallions.
Overall, the dish was impressive. The crab and pork complemented each other nicely, though the meatballs seemed a bit waterlogged from their steam session. The seasonings came through loud and clear, with the astringent notes of the garlic and the heat of the chilis offset by that unique ginger bite. This was definitely stir-fry taken to a different level than we had previously attempted.