Dim Sum Steamed Beef Meatballs (点心蒸牛肉球)

Steamed beef meatball (点心蒸牛肉球) is another popular dim Sum item in Cantonese cuisine. If you follow this recipe, the meatballs will come out exactly the same as Guangzhou Tea house restaurants, juicy, soft, succulent, and with unique flavors.

INGREDIENTS (makes six meatballs)

  • 200g (7 oz) lean ground beef
  • 1/3 tsp of salt
  • 1.5 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tbsp of oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tsp of chicken bouillon powder
  • 1/4 tsp of white pepper
  • 1 tsp of sesame oil
  • 1/3 tsp of baking soda
  • 42g (1.5 oz) of hot water
  • 42g (1.5 oz) of crushed ice
  • 29g (1 oz) of tapioca starch or potato starch
  • 42g (1.5 oz) of pork fat, diced
  • 4 tbsp of diced cilantro
  • A piece of dried orange peel (1.5 inches * 2 inches)
  • 42g (1.5 oz) of Diced Jicama

Others:

  • 2-3 pieces of Tofu skin, cut into 4*3 inches, optional
  • 1-2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce for dipping

INSTRUCTIONS

You will need some ground beef. We usually manually ground the meat by using a heavy-duty cleaver, but that does not mean you can not use pre-ground beef. Make sure the ground beef you buy is fresh and lean; less than 8 percent fat is perfect. Of, course, if you want to grind the meat yourself, make sure to choose the correct cut, such as beef round, knuckle, or sirloin tip, and you have to remove the silver skin for better texture.

Season the ground beef with 1/3 tsp of salt, 1.5 tsp of sugar, 1 tbsp of oyster sauce, 1/2 tsp of chicken bouillon powder, some white pepper to taste, and 1 tsp of sesame oil. Mix within one direction until the seasonings are well combined. Let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour so all the flavors can mingle with each other.

While waiting, you can dice a small piece of pork fat. Although this is a beef meatball recipe, you will need a little bit of pork fat to balance the texture and the flavor. I know it is a bit annoying to purchase a small piece of pork fat. You can dice some bacon instead, which is not authentic but I have tried it, and it does add lots of flavors.

Dice 1.5 oz of Jicama. Chinese meatball recipes always contain some crunchy vegetables to balance the texture. If you can’t find jicama, you can use carrot, water chestnut, or daikon radish.

Dim sum beef meatballs have two significant flavors, one of which is cilantro. However, for those of you who genetically hate cilantro, please use scallions.

The second flavor comes from chenpi (陈皮), aged orange peel (1.5 inches * 2 inches). It was dry like this. I soaked it in clean water for about 40 minutes. Use a spoon to scrape the pith. Thinly julienne it, then dice finely.

Since Chenpi (陈皮) is the key ingredient that determines the authenticity of this dish, let me talk about it a little bit more. Although some of you may be able to purchase it from your local Asian market, I don’t recommend that, or at least you should be careful when you buy it because I haven’t found any good quality Chenpi in the USA. It has no fragrance, and it smells like dust. You will not get any benefit from cooking with it.

I was very frustrated when I bought this, so I had to ask my sister to ship some from China. This is Xin Hui Chenpi (新会陈皮), aged 15 years. I wish you could smell it. It is like a sweet tropical fruit, and it has a strong citrus aroma. I can smell this all day. LOL!

Alright, back to reality. Most of you don’t have access to buy Xn Hui Chenpi. You can use fresh tangerine peel as a replacement. Get a small spoon and gently remove the pith. Then finely dice the tangerine peel. Even though the fragrance is less complex compared to the aged Chenpi, it is still better than most of the options that you can get from the Asian market.

Next, we will prepare the tofu skin (腐皮). Cut it into smaller pieces (4*3 inches). Then we will deep fry it in 380 F oil for a few seconds. Take them out and soak them in clean water for a couple of minutes or until soft. I know you must wonder why. Well, tofu skin is slightly chewy if you steam it directly, which is not pleasant to eat. After deep frying and soaking, the tofu skin becomes porous and tastes better.

Squeeze water out of the tofu skin and put it on a plate. The purpose is to prevent the meatballs from sticking to the plate. Other than that, it doesn’t make a big difference in taste. If you don’t have it, or you think it is too much effort to deep fry and soak the tofu skin, feel free to skip it or use parchment paper to prevent sticking.

Next, we will make a hot water baking soda solution, which is easy. Just combine the baking soda and the hot water. You will see some bubbles coming out. That means the sodium bicarbonate is breaking down into sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), which is a stronger alkaline. It will improve the texture of the meat by changing the PH level. That is why the meatballs are soft and succulent. Traditionally, we use lye water, but not everybody has access to buy it. So this is what we are using.

Next, add some crushed ice to cool it down. Mix in 1 oz (29g) of tapioca starch. If you don’t have it, you can use potato starch. Would cornstarch work? The answer is yes, but the texture will be different.

Take the beef out of the fridge. Add a little bit of the tapioca water and stir the meat within one direction until the liquid is gone. Add a little more starch water and keep whisking. Repeat that until all the starch water is finished. You will be surprised that such little beef can take in so much water; that is also the secret of juicy meatballs.

I am only making a small amount of meatball today, so I stir it by hand, but if you double or triple this recipe, you can use the help from a stand mixer, which saves a lot of labor.

Now you can add the diced jicama, the chenpi, pork belly, and cilantro. Mix until well combined. Just in case you are wondering why I added these ingredients the last, small bites of ingredients will inhibit the protein formation, which lowers the water-absorbing rate, so you want to mix in the tapioca starch water first, then add all these minced ingredients.

Next, we are going to round it into meatballs. Just grab a big batch of meat and squeeze it. It will naturally form a meatball in between your thumb and forefinger. Scoop it with a spoon and put it on top of the fried tofu skin. This recipe is enough to make six big meatballs. Each one is about 65 grams (2.3 oz). You don’t need a scale unless you have OCD. I go with my eyes.

Alright, the next step is to steam them. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Put the steamer on and steam on high heat for 10 minutes.

The classic way to enjoy dim sum meatballs is with Worcestershire sauce. Why? Because we added alkaline to the meat, a slightly sour taste from the Worcestershire sauce balance out the taste perfectly.

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Dim Sum Steamed Beef Meatballs (点心蒸牛肉球)

Ingredients

Make the Meatballs

Others:

Instructions

  • Season the ground beef with salt, sugar, oyster sauce, chicken bouillon powder, white pepper to taste, and sesame oil. Mix within one direction until the seasonings are well combined. Chill the filling in the fridge for one hour.
  • While waiting, soak the dried tangerine peel for 40 minutes. Use a spoon to eliminate the pith, then dice the tangerine peel finely.
  • Dice the pork fat, jicama, and cilantro. If you can’t find jicama, use carrot, water chestnut, or daikon radish.
  • Cut the tofu skin into smaller pieces, then deep fry in 380 F oil for a few seconds. Remove it from the oil and soak it in clean water for a couple of minutes or until soft. Tofu skin is slightly chewy if you steam it directly, which is unpleasant to eat. After deep frying and soaking, it becomes porous and can soak flavor from the meatballs.
  • Slightly squeeze the tofu skin and put it on a plate. The purpose is to prevent the meatballs from sticking to the plate. Other than that, it doesn’t make a big difference in taste. If you don’t have it, or you think it is too much effort to deep fry and soak the tofu skin, feel free to skip it or use parchment paper to prevent sticking.
  • Combine the baking soda and the hot water. The heat will break the sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), which is a stronger alkaline. It will improve the texture of the meat by changing the PH level. That is why the meatballs are soft and succulent.
  • Add the crushed ice to cool the liquid. Then combine the liquid with the tapioca starch and stir thoroughly.
  • Take the beef out of the fridge, add the tapioca water in batches, and stir the meat in one direction until the liquid is absorbed. Continue to whisk the meat until it becomes gluey and sticky.
  • Add the diced jicama, the chenpi, pork belly, and the diced cilantro. Mix until well combined. Small bites of ingredients will inhibit the protein formation, which lowers the water-absorbing rate. That's why I mix the meat with the tapioca starch water first, then add all these minced ingredients last.
  • Grab a big batch of meat and squeeze it. The meat will naturally form a ball in between your thumb and forefinger. Scoop it with a spoon and put it on top of the fried tofu skin. This recipe is enough to make 6 big meatballs, 65 grams (2.3 oz) each.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil. Steam the meatballs over high heat for 10 minutes.

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