Asian Style Pork Meatball and Winter Veggie Soup

While I can’t argue that this is traditional, it has the essence of the type of food I grew up with. This was not something that my mother taught me to make. I literally made this up completely from scratch because I was craving the flavors of my childhood. I think this is a dish that will satisfy both Asians and Americans alike and both will find some of the flavors familiar. If you cook the dish a little extra, the squash starts to break down and adds a creamy thickness that is reminiscent of savory pumpkin soup. As for many things fusion, this recipe was a gigantic win.

This is a great winter soup. It is hearty, full bodied, and filling. It is also full of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. Serve it over brown rice or a brown rice/whole grain blend for a satisfying meal.

This recipe calls for raw Cha. If you live near a China town, some of the Vietnamese delis will carry raw cha and all should carry the cooked version. Seattle Deli on 12th in the International District carries it in tubs. Look for the pink tub of meat puree, it is already seasoned. The staff there speak decent english and will help you find it. If using pre-cooked cha, just slice some of it up and throw it into the soup for the last minute of cooking so you can warm it through.

You can substitute cooked ground pork and an extra dash of Nouc Mam into the soup. You could also use fish meatballs or any other asian style meatball. Firm tofu is a good substitution for a protein source or you can omit it all together and just enjoy your veggies.

Fermented Tofu is another ingredient that you will have to find in an asian market. You can find it in glass jars it looks like white pieces of tofu in liquid, usually with red specks of hot pepper in it. I prefer one with hot pepper and sesame oil. If you have never had it, don’t be afraid. It is wonderful when used sparingly in dishes. It cooks down and you won’t even know its there except for the fact that it will impart a certain je ne sais quois. You can omit it, but it makes food taste so much better. If the idea squicks you out, remember, soy sauce is a type of fermented soy. Another thing to remember is that while stinky tofu is a type of fermented tofu, not all fermented tofu is of the smelly variety. This recipe uses the mild flavored non-stinky type.

Thogg loved this dish and willingly ate his veg with a smile on his face. The veggies may be the star of this dish, but meat-eaters should be pretty happy too.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 to 2/3 of a recipe of my Lemon Grass and Ginger Pork Broth. Link:¬†http://cookingforthogg.livejournal.com/18412.html You can substitute chicken broth but the flavor won’t be the quite the same. You want about 5 cups of cooking liquid.
  • 1 very small kobocha squash
  • 1.5 cups of chopped daikon – about 1 small-medium sized daikon
  • 2 small carrots – chopped
  • 2 medium american shallots or a hand-full of small asian shallots – skinned and chopped small
  • 2 ribs of celery – chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic – minced
  • 1 small piece of ginger – peeled and minced finely
  • 1-2 Tbs fermented Tofu (with hot pepper in sesame oil) about 1 or 2 cubes of it
  • Nouc Mam, salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Into a large soup pot sweat the onions, carrots and celery over medium heat with just a pinch of salt and some black pepper. In the mean time with a heavy kitchen knife or cleaver, chop off the top and bottom of the squash. Slice it in half, de-seed it and then cut it into 1 inch cubes.
  • Once the onions have softened add the garlic and ginger. Add the fermented tofu and squish it down with your cooking spoon. You want to make it disintegrate and flavor the whole soup. Cook for another minute or two and then add the broth, daikon and squash. If you are using ground pork or tofu add it here. If you are lucky enough to have access to raw Cha scoop it using a small spoon or melon-baller and drop it into the boiling soup. Gently boil for 3-4 minutes or until the squash and daikon have softened and the meat is cooked through. Give it a taste and season with more Nouc Mam, salt and pepper as necessary. Nouc Mam will add a more rounded salty flavor, go slowly as it is very salty. If you want a less strong flavor, use salt instead.
  • Serve over rice. Garnish with chopped cilantro or green onions.
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