Ying's ideas of easy Chinese home-cooking

Steamed Chenpi Beef Meatball

陳皮牛肉丸

Ingredients –
Beef mince, 300g;
Chenpi, 1 piece, about 5g;
Sponge gourd, 1;
Garlic mince, 1tsp;
Cornstarch, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar.

Chenpi is sun-dried tangerine peel in Chinese pinyin. It’s widely used in Chinese cooking and herbal medicine, such as in braised pork or any other fat meat, and Cantonese like to add a piece in making soup or sweet soup, such as the most common tong-sui/sweet soup, red bean soup. Chenpi beef meatball is one of the dim-sum classics that every time I went yum-cha, I would definitely order it.

‘Chen’ means aged. The longer Chenpi is aged, well, even decades, the better the quality. I have known Chenpi well since I was a child because my hometown, Xinhui in Canton province, is where famous for producing the best Chenpi. As far as I can remember, all Chenpi I have had are always from relatives in hometown or from grandma. One of the essential of good Chenpi is a particular type of tangerine in Xinhui is used. This tangerine is sold much more expensive with peels than without. The other important factor is its production technique. In general, it’s a procedure of pith removing, sun-drying, steaming, and repeating it again and again. There have been big jars of Chenpi at my grandparents’. When weather was dry and sunny, grandma would steam them till soft enough to remove the white pith on the peel, sun-dry, then store in somewhere cool and dry. She would repeat this process again and again when the weather was suitable, till all pith removed and the peel was very thin, dry, dark and crispy.

Since Chenpi is so commonly used that it’s in most Chinese households. No doubt it can be obtained in Chinese grocery stores anywhere of the world. In this dish, I would like to steam the meatball with sponge gourd/luffa. I love to steam meat with some vegetables, so that they could absorb the lovely juice. If you don’t like or you can’t obtain sponge gourd, use taro, potato, sweet potato, fried tofu, or even green bean vermicelli.

How to do –
1. Soak the Chenpi in water till it’s soft enough to cut off. Then one bigger portion chopped and the rest thinly sliced. Keep the soaked water;

2. In a big mixing bowl, put in the beef mince, Chenpi mince, garlic mince, 1tbsp of cornstarch, 1 tbsp of light soy sauce, 1tbsp of oyster sauce, 1tsp of sugar, 3 to 4 tbsp of the soaked water, mix well, then in one direction, stir for at least 5 minutes till you find it really hard to stir. This can make the meatball chewier and juicier after steaming. The same theory is also used in making dumpling filling. You could use food processer to help but I would like a work-out with my arms;

3. Sponge gourd removed the tough peels, then cut into 1 inch chunk, layered on a deep plate;

4. Roll the beef mixture into mouth size balls and put on top of the gourd, garnish with the Chenpi slices;


5. Bring a big pot of water to boil, then steam in high heat for 10 minutes;

6. There might be some juice in the plate and I would like to make a light gravy with. Carefully pour the juice into a sauce pan. Mix 1tsp of cornstarch with 1tbsp of light soy sauce and a little water in a small bowl. Put in the sauce pan with the juice, mix well and cook in medium heat till the sauce become thick. Then drizzle on top of the meatballs.

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