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Dragon and Phoenix Balls

Dragon and Phoenix. The two most auspicious and conspicuous mythical creatures of Chinese culture. Auspicious because they represent all things good — prosperity, peace, love, harmony… And conspicuous because you see them at every Chinese wedding, in art and on dinnerware, not to mention in various forms of tacky tattoos.

(This photo was taken during our trip to China in 2009. It’s carved from bone! Breathtakingly impressive!)

So of course these two symbols have to make their way into our food! The chinese word for lobster translates literally as “dragon shrimp” (cuz something about the lobsters look like dragons…yah, I don’t know either, just go with it), and chicken feet is “phoenix talons” (cuz it’s a bird?). From there, we get “dragon and phoenix” dishes that include anything relating to shrimp/lobster and chicken.

When I was young, my mom made a dish called “Dragon and Phoenix Balls” on special occasions. These balls were minced shrimp and chicken, with a coating of mini bread cubes, that were then deep fried to a golden, crispy goodness. Oh.Em.Gee. They were a hit wherever they went, and I looked forward to special celebrations all the more because of their appearance.

It’s been years and years since I’ve had one though, because as you can imagine, these babies were not exactly health food. And so my mom stopped making them.

They randomly popped back into my consiousness recently, followed by the thought, “why don’t I try my hand at them and healthify them while I’m at it?”

And so I did…

Dragon and Phoenix Balls

(makes 25 – 30 balls)

1 lb lean ground chicken

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 C green onion, thinly sliced (about 2 stalks)

1 TB cilantro, finely chopped (edited to note: I find that increasing this to 1/4 C gives a better flavour)

2 cloves garlic, very finely minced

1/2 tsp ginger, very finely minced

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp canola oil

2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 tsp Chinese cooking wine (rice wine, NOT the vinegar)

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1/4 tsp sugar

3/4 C ground shredded wheat cereal (or other crunchy cereal, or panko)*

(*Notes: 1) make sure you use cereal that does not have any (or much) sugar added (ie. NOT Mini-Wheats) and 2) bread crumbs would work too, but the end result will not be as crunchy, as these balls will be baked, not deep-fried.

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

First, throw in some shredded wheat cereal into a food processor and give it a whirl until it has a coarsely ground texture. You’ll want 3/4 C of the ground stuff, so I think I used a little over a cup of the cereal itself. Transfer to a dish and set aside.

Next, mince shrimp meat into a paste. Start by roughly chopping all the meat, then continue to mince it to a finer and finer texture, just like you would to garlic.

This takes a few minutes and a bit of effort, but hang in there, it’s so worth it! Eventually you end up with a shrimp paste that has an almost gelatinous texture.

And the hard work is now done!

Next, you just throw all the ingredients, except the ground cereal, into a large bowl, and start mixing it all together with chopsticks or a wooden spoon. When all the ingredients are well combined, slightly wet your hands (to prevent mixture from sticking too much to your hands) and roll into balls. You want them to be just slightly smaller than the size of a golf ball; imagine something that would be either 2-elegant-bites-big or 1-giant-I’m-starving-bite-big.

Then roll them in the cereal to lightly coat. Place onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking oil.

Pop them into the oven for 17 – 20 mins, depending on how big your balls are. (Heh! 😛 ) The tops will have barely started to brown, and the bottoms golden brown. You could also flip them halfway through the cooking time, which will result in a top and bottom that is lightly browned, but they won’t retain a round shape (they’ll have a slightly flattened top and bottom, like little hockey pucks). Whatever floats your boat balls!

These were definitely a hit with my family! The crunchy exterior and dense, juicy interior makes for an explosion of scrumptious savory flavour.

They may not quite measure up to my mom’s real Dragon and Phoenix Balls, but they sure come close! And with this healthified version, we can have them far more often, without having to wait for special occasions. But don’t worry, they don’t taste “healthy”; they will surely satisfy any craving you have for deep-fried food!

 

Posted by on August 16, 2011 in Kitchen Adventures

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Two To The Power of Five

So I may have had a bit of a meltdown last night as the thought finally hit me that I was about to turn 32. Suddenly, year 31 seemed like such a failure and I was terrified of what year 32 was about to bring me.

Yes, I was that kind of girl.

It’s ok, I give you full permission to laugh at and judge me all you want because, believe me, I totally realize how ridiculous I was being.

(Source)

But in the resplendent light of day, things sure seemed different, and as my morning progressed, my mood continuously lightened.

I woke up to Len playing Happy Birthday to me on the guitar. Seriously, how could my day not get off to a good start after that? 🙂 Oh, and he also declared that it was my “2^5th birthday” (2 to the 5th power). Math Nerd Alert! =) Nerd or not, I decided that sounded like a way cooler age to be at.

Then I made myself a giant Green Monster in a bowl. It contained a banana, lots o’ spinach, flax seeds, milk, frozen watermelon, and frozen blueberries.

Wait, wait, wait…while it may look like a big bowl of green sludge, I assure you it was ridiculously tasty! Especially when I topped it with granola, brown rice crisp cereal, almonds, and fresh blueberries:

Yum! My morning was indeed getting better and better…

Then as I savoured my breakfast, I read the many loving and funny birthday messages from my friends and family, and I just felt so blessed to have such amazing people around me.

And then the doorbell rang. Look what my loving husband had delivered to me:

Am I the luckiest girl or what? 🙂

I went on to putter about the house and snap some pictures in our garden. Oh, remember that vegetable garden I was so gung-ho on starting a few months back? Yes, well, my enthusiasm proved a bit short-lived. So all I managed to grow was a whole lotta lettuce…

And that’s it. Nothin’ else.

Ah well, there’s always next year, right?

Then I came in and made my favourite hummus for lunch. I have made other versions of hummus, including my Black Bean and Orange Hummus (which I love), but this easy and original version is still my all-time favourite. It’s super simple, and can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways… as a sandwich spread, with veggie sticks or crackers, on toast, on salads, on meat, licked straight off your finger…whatever floats your boat. You’ll get no judgement from me!

Saucy’s Favourite Hummus

1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed well

1 – 2 cloves garlic (depending on how garlicky you like it)

2 TB (heaping) tahini

2 TB fresh lemon juice (juice from approx 1 lemon)

2 TB extra-virgin olive oil

2 TB water

2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp salt (we have a pretty low-sodium diet around here, so adjust to your taste–can use up to 1 tsp)

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp chili powder

freshly ground black pepper to taste (I used approx 1/4 tsp)

I love that the PC Blue Menu line has a variety of canned beans with no salt added.

Mmmm tahini. Love this stuff. It’s also really good in salad dressings. Speaking of which, I sometimes also like to thin out my hummus with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and add a touch of honey, for a simple salad dressing.

Ok, back to the hummus… Right, so just throw all the ingredients into a food processor, and give it a whirl for a good minute or two until the hummus is smooth and creamy. You can add more water or oil if you like your hummus with a thinner texture, and adjust all the seasonings to your taste. And that’s all there is to it!

Oh, and sprinkle on some paprika for a garnish if you like.

I had a hummus, spinach, tomato, and cucumber sandwich for lunch and it was just what this birthday girl wanted. 🙂

After work, I came home to Len making me a scrumptious dinner, with a dreamy lemon cake for dessert. (Which I unfortunately didn’t remember to photograph cuz I was too hungry!)

This birthday has been just lovely. So maybe 32 isn’t so bad afterall… 🙂

 

Posted by on August 4, 2011 in Kitchen Adventures, Thoughts

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