Salt and Pepper Prawns and Pearl Meatballs

It's already Wednesday and I haven't yet had my Chinese food fix.  No doubt it is about that time...
This morning I picked up some 16/20 wild white prawns imported from Mexico for $7.99 / lb.  Not only a great price, but wild, versus farm raised.  As the fish monger told me, get it while you can before the oil gets them.  They were shell on, large, and so I decided to make Salt and Pepper Prawns.  I love the crispy shell, and the salty, spicy flavor.  If done correctly, the shell should be so crisp you can eat that too, like a little chip.  The kids peel, Chris and I go with shell on.

Salt and Pepper Prawns
1 lb (16/20 meaning 16-20 prawns per pound) wild white prawns, shell on
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 Scallion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 small jalapeno, seeds removed, chopped
1 1/4 tsp Spicy Salt and Pepper (1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns, pinch of five spice powder)

Clean and rinse the prawns.  Make a slit along the back cutting through the shell and slightly into the back of the prawn.  You can use a pair of small sharp tipped scissors to do this or a sharp knife.  Dry the prawns with paper towels and mix with the egg and corn starch and a pinch of salt.  
Deep fry the shrimp for 1 minute, until shell is crispy.  I find the best way is to have the oil quite hot, 375-400f, and fry in a couple of batches.  Drain on paper towels.
In your wok, add 1 tbsp oil, and fry the scallion, garlic and jalapeno until fragrant.  Then add in the shrimp and the spicy salt and pepper, and mix quickly.  Serve immediately.

Wanting to again try something new, I thought I'd do the Pearl Meatballs ala the Tori Dango we had at Yakitori Totto in NY.  The Chinese version makes it with ground pork, instead of chicken. My mom has made these for us in the past, and I was hoping to have her guidance.   But she is currently in Taiwan, on her way home now, so I will have to give it a go on my own.

Pearl Meatballs 
2 cups glutinous or sweet rice (you'll have some left over, but it makes for easier rolling)
6 large dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water, softened, stems removed, then finely chopped
1/2 cup water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 lb ground pork
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
3 tbsp light soy 
1 tbsp rice wine or cooking wine
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 1/2 tbsp corn starch
3 tbsp water

Rinse the rice a couple of times and then soak in cold water for at least an hour.  When ready to use, drain and place onto a baking sheet in an even layer.  
Combine all the ingredients, except for the rice, and let marinate together for at least 30 minutes.  Roll mixture into 1 inch balls.  Do not press the meatball into a dense heavy ball.  Keep it kind of loose and light, otherwise, I find the cooked product is not as tender and becomes too hard.  The addition of water helps to keep the pork loose.  
Roll the balls in the rice, pressing lightly so that it is completely coated with the rice.  
Steam the meatballs using a steamer lined with lettuce or napa cabbage leaves, set over simmering water for about 25 minutes.  You can also use a damp cheese cloth or parchment paper with holes punched in it to allow moisture to escape.  
Serve with a little soy dipping sauce if you'd like.  

I made a little care package of pearl meatballs and a couple of other items and sent them with Chris to the airport to pick up my mom.  The water chestnuts did their job making the pork milder and more airy, and the ginger and sesame oil brought freshness and lightness to them.  I am hoping my mom will agree, the pearl meatballs are divine.  Delicate yet deliberate.


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