Sunday, March 07, 2010

Pork-Shiitake Niku Dango

Niku dango are Japanese meatballs, and are the perfect accompaniment to beer and noodles (two of my favorite things). Meatballs, in general are huge right now - Bon Appetit magazine recently had a whole issue devoted to them. Shit, 20% of all my (granted, now craptastic) blog traffic consistently comes from people Googling Swedish meatball recipes. I love meatballs, and since I've been fiddling with Asian flavors again these days - mostly Japanese and Korean - I thought I'd make some pork meatballs with a Japanese twist.

Flipping through my cookbooks, I saw a recipe for such "meatballs with a twist" in the Japanese Country Cookbook, and this is very loosely based on that (I prefer fresh shiitake to dried, soaked ones). Mix a pound of ground pork with a beaten egg, a small handful of panko, 2 minced shiitake mushrooms, a clove of minced garlic, a couple tablespoons minced shallot and grated ginger, a small splash each of soy sauce, mirin and sake, a tablespoon or so of sugar and a pinch of salt. I also added a pinch of chile flake for posterity. Some minced scallion would've been a nice touch, had I had any around, and I guess some finely chopped hijiki or nori flakes would've been kinda special. Oh well.

I know people will say there are better ways, and I know that grilling would yield the best flavor, but I just portioned these puppies out using a small ice cream scoop and baked them at like 375 or 400 for about 20 minutes. This is just always the easiest way for me to make meatballs, even if frying in butter or duck fat does taste better. The mushroom and all the seasoning liquids (plus the lovely pork fat) keep the interior of the niku dango so nice and moist that you can get away with a higher temp to get a crispier exterior, but I brushed mine with store-bought tonkatsu sauce (pineapple flavor, though you could use a mix of soy sauce, honey and rice vinegar) and returned them to the oven to get all sticky and glaze-y.

Since I cooked these to sate a trashy izakaya jones, I originally served them with udon soup and gyoza, but I had so many leftover that I enjoyed the rest for a fast lunch the next day (reheated in the toaster oven) with shoyu ramen, soft-boiled egg and sprinkled with shichimi togarashi (Japanese chile powder) and nori goma furikake (seaweed-sesame rice seasoning).

Enjoy with a tallboy of Kirin (Marc suggests Asahi for proper Japa-redneckness) and Keyhole TV.

22 comments:

Peter G @ Souvlaki For The Soul said...

Who doesn't love meatballs? They're the perfect "meal"...love the Japanese flavours here Heather...and bring that beer please!

The Spiteful Chef said...

Yeah, that and they're BALLS of MEAT. Awesomeness. And Ramen is awesomeness, too Idon'tevencare. I've never been down with sake, though. I prefer beer.

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Nice Heather! I love that you put them on top of packaged ramen. Looks like it'd be perfect with a cold frosty Sapporo.

Memória said...

These meatballs look DELICIOUS!! Oh goodness!! I must try this out one day. I love that you placed them atop ramen noodles. I haven't had those in many many years.

Chrystal said...

Big ups to the beer and meatball pairing. Oh, and noodles too. Tonkatsu sauce is something that needs to be added to the pantry...

Foodycat said...

Brilliant! I have some beef mince in, that I think is going to go exactly the same way! Hmmm - actually I even have some furikake!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That noodle dish looks fantastic! Yummy!

Cheers,

Rosa

Maggie said...

Awesome. These look totally delicious, and totally more interesting than most of the faddish meatballs popping up around NY.

Bellini Valli said...

I see that life has regained some resemblance to routine sans baby bump once again. It also seems you have your cooking mojo back Heather.

Manggy said...

Okay. I need to go to there. (I dunno what's wrong with me, I have everything here, including tonkatsu sauce, though there is no wonderfully kitsch pineapple flavor). The chili flakes aren't posterity for me - they are a necessity. Damn, hungry at 1AM. Thanks, Heather.

Heather said...

Petah - I think only assholes don't like meatballs.

Kristie - I love packaged ramen too much. You need to try other sakes. Cold ones (esp. unfiltered) are my favorite.

Marc - Hai! I need to start buying the ramen noodles alone and making my own, but Shirakiku makes good, cheap (Japanese) packaged ramen.

Memória - These are too easy not to try at home! You could just have them on rice if you're laying off the sodium. :)

Chrystal - Tonkatsu sauce is supposedly Japanese ketchup. It's just another condiment to take up room in my fridge. :P

Alicia - Beef would be great, too. Oh, I think I added a bunch of grated ginger, too, but forgot to put that in the post. (Editing now)

Rosa - Thanks! I wish I had more right now...

Mags - If meatballs are faddishly popping up everywhere in NYC, I guess they'll be big in Portland sometime next year (but zomg, did you see the meatball banh mi with sriracha mayo in Bon Appetit?).

Val - I have my EATING mojo back! And since I haven't been working since November, the cooking is a necessity. :)

Marky! - If you wanted to totally Trader Vic it up, you could reduce some pineapple juice and mix it in. To be honest, I couldn't even taste the pineapple, I just liked the thought of it.

tinyangryone said...

I've been having a mean ramen craving lately. I made some jail house ramen the other day but it was ghetto and not very satisfying.

Can you please invite me over next time you make it? I will tickle your baby. : )

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I did something similar with meatballs recently where I mixed turkey with some typical Asian flavors and called them "skinless wontons" since they reminded me of wonton filling. I stuck them in noodle soup and all was right with the world. I'm afraid I didn't have your interesting scope of ingredients to make them as beautiful as these though.

Don't worry. I bake my meatballs too. I really hate fussing with frying them. Too much worry about when they're cooked through.

tons of land said...

oh, snap. dat looks good.

glamah16 said...

Dick Fat and meatballs! Brilliant. Must save that idea. I love a good meeatball myself. Dont worry about traffice. I have yet to figure the winnning formula to that. Been eyeinf a huge bag od dry Ramen noodles in the Asian Maket. Thinking of making up some good soups to sastify both CS and myself.

Heather said...

Yes! Courtney, your awesome Blackberry typo wins you Comment of the Day. Love you, girl.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

I don't think I had these while on holiday in Japan, but I'm sure I saw them. And now, thanks to you, I am darn well going to make some. Pork, noodles, egg, Japanese - top noms.

We Are Never Full said...

you're so right about the meatball =trend thing. so weird that it's "hot" now. they are awesome (in any way they are done) so i can kind of see why. la cucina italian just did the same thing and, gotta say, they blew BA's article out of the water.

i LOVE the look of this meal and may just have to make it this week.

Ken Albala said...

Heather, For serious laziness, and an appealing texture that keeps all the fat in the meatballs, try poaching them in water, soy, pineapple juice, whatever, and then dumping the noodles right in.Vegs too. One pot, no oven or baking sheet. Ken

Cynthia said...

This looks so comforting.

LC said...

Those meaty balls are seriously awesome! We had meatball pizza last but this is another league. Love the egg too. Now you've forced me to go down to the ID for lunch...

Anonymous said...

Whoa this looks yummy, but weird. What I like the most is pork recipes and my grandpa too 'cause it helps him with his dysfunctional problems.But he prefers to visit Viagra Online