I thought a fitting start to this post would be the video from this years Golden Melody Awards winner for best Hakka Singer; Ayugo Huang (黃連煜) singing Shan Ge Yi Tiao Lu (山歌 一條路), Sán Gó Ìd Tiǎu Lu in Hakka. I don’t understand a word of the Hakka language, but it is great nonetheless. In mandarin the title translates to something like “The Mountain Song (Folk Song) Road” (feel free to offer a better translation).
Did you ever start out with something that seemed rather simple that just snowballed as things went on. Well this was one of those things. Actually it is really simple especially with what I consider a rather reasonable shortcut. It is just that I got hung up on a seemingly hard to find ingredient. Because, well, I am just that sort of person and it is also a really tasty ingredient. So I had to find a way to make said ingredient at home. Which was easy, after I decided on a recipe.
Anyway, today we are going to make 客家鹹口味粄圓 (Kèjiā xián kǒu wèi bǎn yuán) or alternatively 客家鹹湯圓 (Kèjiā xián tāng yuán), either way it is “Hakka Salty (as in savory) Rice Ball Soup.” A really simple dish that has a couple of ingredients that may not be well known outside of some parts of East Asia.
The first not well known ingredient is the vegetable 茼蒿 (tóng hāo) Gleboinis coronaria (formerly/aka Chrysanthemum coronarium) or Garland Chrysanthemum. Which is a leafy green. That depending on the variety can have lacy looking leaves, like the type I picked up at the Korean market. Or it can have a broader lobed leaf, which I see in Taiwan. It is also the green used in Taiwanese oyster omelets if you were ever wondering.
The second is 客家香蔥油 (Kèjiā xiāng cōng yóu) or “Hakka Shallot Oil.” Which is minced fried shallots in lard. It is fragrant and yummy. And for the completely legitimate shortcut for this hard/impossible to find ingredient you can just use fried shallots. Or you can make your own.
As for the rice balls, I just picked up the frozen ones in freezer section of the Chinese Market. Just make sure you get the small ones that are about 1/2 inch in diameter.
- 100 g. lean pork, cut into thick matchsticks
- 300 g. rice balls
- 50 g. Tong Hao/ 茼蒿 /Chrysanthemum Greens, roughly chopped
- 2 dried black mushrooms (shiitake), sliced
- 3 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
- 1 T. dried shrimp, chopped
- 1 T. soy sauce
- 700 ml. chicken stock
- 1 T. Hakka shallot oil (recipe below) or 1 T. of chopped, fried shallots
- pinch of salt
- dash of white pepper
- Soak the dried mushrooms and the dried shrimp for 30 minutes in warm water until soft. Slice the mushrooms and chop the shrimp.
- To a hot wok add 1 T. of oil. Then add the pork shreds, sliced shallots. Stir fry until lightly golden.
- Add the chopped dried shrimp, sliced mushrooms, and chopped carrot. Stir fry for another 30 seconds or so.
- Add in the soy sauce, chicken stock, shallot oil (or fried shallots), salt and white pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil
- To the separate pot of boiling water add the rice balls, boil until all the rice balls are done/floating.
- Add the cooked rice balls and the chopped Tong Hao/ 茼蒿 /chrysanthemum greens to the soup. Boil on high for about 30 seconds to blanch the greens. Remove from heat immediately to avoid over cooking the greens.
Now for the 客家香蔥油 (Kèjiā xiāng cōng yóu), “Hakka Shallot Oil.” There seemed to be a couple different approaches or variations on this ingredient/condiment.
The approach I chose is probably the more rustic of the two, but lends itself well to this recipe. And it was the style of recipe I came across most often. Plus I had a some pork fat in the freezer I needed to use up anyway. So first I rendered some lard, then…
- 1 lb. minced shallots
- 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. lard
- Heat the lard in a wok until hot, add the minced shallots. Lower the heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently until the shallots are golden brown (about 30 to 60 minutes). The shallots will look quite dark brown, but that is ok
- When cool put the mix into a clean jar and store in the fridge. (It will turn solid once it cools)
The second variation is one in which you fry thinly sliced shallots in oil (in about 1 part shallot to 2 parts oil ratio) until the shallots are are golden brown. Then you strain off the oil. Using the oil as a fragrant oil and the fried shallots as topping and what not.
- 300 g. thinly sliced shallots
- 600 ml. of vegetable oil.
- Heat the oil in a wok until hot, add the thinly sliced shallots. Lower the heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently until the shallots are golden brown (about 30 to 60 minutes).
- Let cool then strain off the oil into a clean jar. Put the fried shallots in another.
- The oil and shallots can live in your fridge for quite some time.