Introduction: Oriental Style Meatballs (Without Meat)with Soupy Noodles
As with the rest of the world, myself and my family are stuck at home for more than a month because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Being locked in during these long Indian summer days with 2 kids , one young and the other one young at heart :), is enough to try one's patience and ingenuity. As the resident chef, you are expected to rustle up tasty dishes, as a Mom, you make sure that the meals are nutritious and filling. Also as the frugal housewife you have to try and optimally utilize your meagre supplies, both in the kitchen and also in your daily shopping. Some things are simply not available in the shops nowadays.Period. Lastly, I like to wrap up my cooking fast, summers in India are very hot.
Oriental style dishes, maybe Chinese style or Thai inspired ones are my 'go to' choice for quick 'n' easy meals. They are light on the palate and digestion, easy to cook and nutritious. I can customise them to suit my needs as well. Thai style dishes specially are similar to Indian cuisines, with their blend of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours.
This weekend, I was determined to rustle up a fast and easy Oriental style meal for my family, to reduce my kitchen time. I have an old cookbook called 'All Colour Chinese Cookbook' by Hamlyn. It's a second hand book, nearly 30 years old. A gift from my husband, to encourage me on my culinary misadventures:) and of course to reduce his chances of being an unhappy guinea-pig for my experiments. I decided to try out something called 'Thai fried pork balls'. It had fewer ingredients, all easily available, and I could tweak it to my taste. Along with that I would make a soupy veg noodles to add the carbs and veggies for a balanced meal.Yay! Super easy!
But.... disaster, there was no meat at all in the freezer! I had ruled out pork anyway, because of the heat and planned to use chicken mince. But I came to know that inspite of ordering 4 days in advance, we still had not received it. Thank you Coronavirus: (
Well we had to eat...so as my old schoolteacher once quoted 'Necessity is the mother of invention.'
Out chicken mince , soya chunks would save the day. So, I started off with the 'Oriental style meatballs' (without the meat of course).
Soya is an excellent source of vegetarian protein and we Indians use it in the chunk, nugget or granular form to add some valuable protein to our mostly vegetarian diets. It is slightly bland in taste so you can blend it into any dish of your choice as a substitute for animal protein.
My ingredients for the day-
Soya Chunks- 150- 200gms(The chunks will swell up on soaking in water)
Onions- 2 medium
Garlic- 4-5 cloves
Ginger - A small piece
Green chillies/black pepper- As per taste( I added both)
Salt and sugar - As per taste
Coriander leaves- One bunch
Binder- 1-2 eggs
Vegan substitute could be cornflour, chickpea flour( besan) and / or a boiled potato
Soya sauce/ fish sauce- 1 teaspoon or as per taste
Chilli sauce and vinegar - 1 teaspoon or as per taste
Sunflower oil/ any white oil - for frying
Soya chunk was my substitute ingredient instead of meat in this recipe.
For my vegetable soupy noodles,these were my ingredients-
Veg Noodles- 100 gms
Assorted vegetables- A few pieces of beans, carrots and a few cabbage leaves
Fresh Mushrooms- 1 packet
Chopped onions, garlic and ginger- A little leftover from the meatballs recipe will suffice ( 1clove of garlic, half chopped onion and small piece of ginger)
Cornflour for the gravy- 1-2 tablespoons dissolved in a little water, depending on how thick you want the gravy.
Salt and sugar to taste
Black pepper powder- To taste
Sunflower oil / Any white oil
Step 1: Preparing the Ingredients
Soak the soya nuggets in lukewarm water and wash thoroughly 3-4 times. Squeeze out maximum water gently. Then make a coarse mince in the food processor, or mixer grinder machine. A coarse mince will give you a meaty texture in the meatballs, you can also make a fine mince, it is as per your taste.
Chop the corinder leaves, finely chop garlic, onion, ginger and green chillies if you are using them.
Chop the vegetables and the mushrooms for the soupy noodles. Boil some salted water in a container , and once it comes to a rolling boil, add the noodles. Let them soak a bit till they become a bit soft. Drain out the noodles and toss in a small spoon of white oil to prevent stickiness. Do retain some of this salty water to add to the soup it's quite tasty.
Step 2: Preparing Your Meatball Mixture
Take your soya chunk mince and sqeeze out the excess water. Add salt, sugar, fish sauce/ soya sauce chopped coriander leaves, chopped chillies and/or black pepper if you are using them. Add the chopped onion and garlic too. Mix well. Adjust the seasoning. Lastly, add your binder. I added 1 raw egg initially and then another. I also added some cornflour for crispiness.
Step 3: Frying the Meatballs
Heat up the sunflower oil/ white oil in a wok to smoking point. Make a few balls with your mixture and add to the hot oil. Allow one side to get browned well, before turning them over. My mixture was a bit soft, so the balls became a bit flat in shape. Once they are done well on both sides, take them out and keep them on any kitchen tissue to absorb the excess oil. Try one to check the seasoning. If required, you can adjust the balance meatball mixture. Fry as many meatballs as required . They are best served hot off the wok,with some sweet ketchup or hot and sweet Schezwan sauce.Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Step 4: In the Soup
If you have some oil leftover from frying the meatballs, use it. Heat the oil, add some chopped onion, garlic and ginger. Add some salt. Stir for a few minutes, till you get the fragrance of the fried chopped onion, garlic and ginger. Add the chopped carrots, beans and cabbage. Continue cooking till the vegetables become slightly soft. Then add the mushrooms and continue cooking. Add a little of salt, a pinch of sugar and some black pepper.The mushrooms will release water and become softer and smaller after cooking.Check whether the beans and carrots are done.
Add some of the salty water from the boiled noodles. Adjust the seasoning. Then add your boiled noodles. Add the cornflour dissolved in water very slowly, so that you can adjust the required consistency of the soupy noodles. I made the gravy slightly thick, but feel free to improvise. You can add any condiment you want , at this stage, a spoon of vinegar, or chilli sauce if you prefer it spicy. You can also add some soya sauce if you want. I added some vinegar and chilli sauce
(we love our spice). Lastly I garnished with some sliced capsicum.
Step 5: Enjoying the Meal
We enjoyed our fried meatballs (without meat) with veg soupy noodles on the side. Quite delicious! Fast cooking time for me too. Just shows that a little ingenuity can go a long way to cook something tasty without compromising on taste.