Saturday, 14 December 2013

Lion's head meatball sub

ROAR, it's a lion's head meatball sub with chilli jam

I’m actually amazed by the English and their sense of pride when it comes to the sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve all tuned in and loved watching a Great British bake-off where they make the best picnic sandwich bread and filling, but I’m talking about the simplicity of a bread-butter-meat-bread sort of sandwich. Lined up in the aisles, they just appear slightly sorry looking and unfulfilling. I need more substance to keep me going than a sandwich and a packet of crisps.  It just doesn’t do it for me. I suppose I never really grew up with the humble sandwich in my lunchbox. I did however come across a brilliant blog called ‘300 sandwiches – where this girl’s boyfriend loves sandwiches so much he said she was ‘300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring’. And so started a wonderful, beautifully written blog of creative recipes and stories. I highly recommend it.

Soft sub roll, fresh chinese leaf and chilli jam: the perfect accompaniments
 It wasn’t until university days where I took a bit more notice of sandwiches. London living whilst being a student is a challenge, however my friend introduced me to Subway, a sort of stepping stone to the world of sandwiches. I liked the fillings of normal sandwiches, but I always felt it wasn’t enough. Subway seemed to be the perfect solution to that, and my forgiving metabolism, unrefined palette and penniless wallet were a perfect match for the place. I developed an unhealthy relationship with the Meatball Marinara, going every week, almost as a challenge to get the student discount, deal of the day as well as the stamps on my loyalty card to justify it all.

The rise of gourmet, belly-busting, door-stopper style sandwiches is definitely something I can relate to more. The meatball sandwich ticks every box for me in that respect. What I love about meatballs is that they can be creatively translated in so many different cultures and recipes. Spanish, Swedish, Chinese, Italian, Indonesian…name a country, there’s probably a national meatball to go with it. In China, there are lion’s head meatballs. Appropriately named due to their gargantuan size (they should be 7-10cm in diameter) and the braised cabbage that’s served with it (apparently the ‘mane’ of the lion), these rascals are slowly braised in stock for a juicy and tender bite. Depending on the region, there are some which are braised in stock alone, and others with soy sauce. I prefer the latter, where the dark and light soy give a bit more depth and colour to the dish.

Little rascals braising in soy and stock
 Perfect with some fluffy rice, however bastardised in a sub roll is definitely my favourite way to eat it. Get your chilli jam to hand, it’s also a great excuse to use this again.


500g pork mince
100ml cold water
1 tbs sesame oil
2 tbs shaosing rice wine
1.5 tbs light soy sauce
Egg white
4 tbs cornflour
Ground nut oil (or vegetable oil)
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch of grated ginger (optional)
Chinese leaf (or white cabbage)
600ml chicken stock
2 tbs dark soy sauce

Bread of your choice

In a large bowl, mix together the pork, egg white and cold water with your hand. Try to be as delicate as possible as you want the mince to be ‘light’ in texture. Add the sesame oil, rice wine, and light soy sauce and mix again.

Form into 4-5 large ball shapes and lightly cover with cornflour. In a hot wok, brown the meat on all sides for 7-8 minutes and set aside. Wipe the wok clean and add a dash more oil and cook the garlic and ginger on a high heat for 15 seconds. Quickly stir fry 5 or 6 large leaves and then add the stock and dark soy sauce to the wok.

Bring the heat down to as low as possible, put a cover on the wok and leave for 45mins – 1hr. In a separate bowl add two tsp of cornflour and a tablespoon of water together. Remove the meatballs from the wok and add the cornflour mixture to the sauce to thicken slightly. Here is where you can make more of a meal with this and serve with rice if you’d like.

Toast your bread and spread on one side some chilli jam if you have any (recipe is here). Slice the meatballs and place on the other side of your bread, alongside a chinese leaf or some greens and spring onions if you want.

Just too crazy to keep the meatballs whole, but try if you dare...

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