Round, round, round… making meatballs is relaxation. My mind moves ’round from one topic to another, settling to meditate on an idea—how a compliment from a stranger can brighten a day. Oh, love sought is good, but given unsought, is better. A surprise is to be wondered at just because it is unexpected, and so is separate from the mundane. But look at it the other way around, to see the ordinary things in the glow. My boss tells everyone the beautiful artwork is mine, a co-worker thanks me for my work though I’m only doing my job. A friend laughs at my bad joke or pun. My husband brings me coffee everyday, and gives me kisses, and calls me “luv.” And I’m only making meatballs. Small things to add to the soup.
Do note that this recipe seems to have Chinese or Asian roots. The broth is not the usual dashi, made with dried bonito, but chicken stock. And cilantro is not a usual Japanese flavor. Coriander is native to southwestern Asia, the Near East, and southern Europe. It’s seeds and leaves have different flavors; to many the leaves taste and smell like soap (or cat p!ss). Chopped leaves are commonly used in China, India, Thailand, and other S.E. Asian countries, and in Mexico. The seeds are more commonly used across Europe. I used to make a slightly sweet bread flavored with ground coriander seeds, and often added coriander to stews because it has a round and subtle flavor.
“Niku” means beef (or meat) in Japanese. “Dango” means round, as in a dumpling. Usually dango refers to sweet dumplings made with rice flour.
Dumplings and Mung-Bean Noodle Hot Pot
Nikudango to Ryokuto Harusame no Sûpu
- 10 ounces ground pork
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon shoyu (soy sauce)
- 2 Tablespoons minced scallion
- 1 Tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 small egg
- 1/4 cup minced coriander leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes
- 3 1/2 ounces ryokuto harusame (mung bean noodles)
- 1 quart chicken broth, preferably homemade
- 1 medium carrot, cut diagonally into thin pieces
- 1 naganegi long onion, preferably, or 4 to 5 scallions, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
- 7 ounces Chinese cabbage, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
- 1/3 cup whole coriander leaves
In a bowl, mix the pork with 1 Tablespoon water to loosen the texture. Add the salt and shoyu, and mix until the pork is sticky. Add the minced scallion, ginger, and garlic. Add the egg and mix, stirring with your hand. Add the minced coriander and 1/4 teaspoon on the white pepper, and mix again.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Shape the pork mixture into 18 balls, each about 1-inch in diameter. Boil the dumplings, in three batches, 2 to 3 minutes, until the dumplings feel firm on the outside but tender on the inside when pressed with a finger. Drain the dumplings.
Drain the mushrooms, cut away their stems, and cut the caps into halves at an angle, by inclining your knife toward the cutting board.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat, add the mung-bean noodles, and let them stand in the hot water for 6 minutes.
Drain the noodles, discarding the water. Cut the bundle of noodles in half.
In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the mushrooms, carrot, long onion, cabbage, and noodles, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add the dumplings, and cook for 10 minutes.
Flavor the soup with additional salt or shoyu, if needed. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon white pepper. Serve the soup hot in individual bowls, garnished with coriander leaves.
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