How to make Beijing-style veg. meatballs
A bit of carrot, coriander and tofu will give you a meaty experience - without the meat
Occasionally, new visitors make the mistake of thinking Chinese aren't devout carnivores. After all, China has a pretty long history of Buddhism.
But no, most Chinese love their meat. Even the sage himself, Confucius, was a meat-loving foodie and stated his meat preferences in the book The Analects
Frequently quoted as a unique perspective on culinary culture, Confucius said: "Rice can never be too refined and meat can never be minced too finely."
According to this principle, the Chinese meatball, or wanzi, is the gold standard.
But even if your morality or religion won't let you enjoy the taste of meat, there's no need to forego the delicacies of the wanzi. As always, tofu is the best substitute for meat. Together with sliced carrots and starch noodles mixed with wheat flour and eggs, tofu Beijing-style vegetarian wanzi has a fresh flavor, perhaps fresh enough to fool a few meat-lovers.
As a Beijing snack, the veggie wanzi has to be served and eaten hot. When you bite into this golden ball - which is crispy on the outside, tender and fresh on the inside - you could swear it was cooked with the finest dead animal, but you can rest easy and chew to your heart's content.
Even with the veggie option, the Chinese meatball is in a whole different ballpark than, say, Ikea meatballs. Like just about every other Chinese dish, there is more than one recipe for wanzi. Frying, quick-boiling, stewing, red-braising - each method brings its own unique taste. Because of these different cooking methods, meatballs are divided into different categories.
Most folk might not know the difference between the "lion's head" and the wanzi, but the key is in the cooking. Those that are red-braised or stewed belong to the lion's head category, and the fried and quick-boiled are wanzi. A lion's head meatball is as big as a human fist, but the wanzi is much smaller. Still, some people focus on geographical differences, saying that the southern meatballs are lion's heads and the northern ones are wanzi. There is no conclusive answer.
The only thing that really matters is flavor. In true Beijing style, you're going to want cute little meatballs deep fried to a delicious golden finish.
- Editor:Justine | Source: China Daily
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