When I was a little girl, I always looked forwards to eating my grandma's "Bakwan Thng" (Meatball Soup). There were two things that I enjoyed about this soup.
The first is obviously the delicious meatballs and the second is the black wood ear fungus (bok nyee). I would painstakingly poke around the soup to fish out the soft chewy black fungus. I simply loved it because of the texture.
If there is one dish that evokes childhood memories, it is this one. It's a child friendly dish and up to today, I enjoy this soup very much. Back in the old days, grandma made her own minced meat by mincing meat using a cleaver.
The chopping board was placed on the floor and grandma would squat and chop away. Once the meat was fine enough, she added onions, an egg and continued chopping until everything was well mixed. This mixture was then seasoned with salt and lots of pepper. That's what I loved, the peppery aroma.
Well, I could never make minced meat the way grandma did. My hand and legs will get tired and worse, I will get a backache. See? Grandma was a lot tougher hah..hah... So this wimpy granddaughter of hers got the minced meat from the supermarket.
The vegetables for the soup are onions, cabbage, carrots and wood ear fungus. I don't remember how grandma cooked her soup because, I was only fascinated with the meatball making process. I most likely ran off to watch Ultraman when the cooking proper was in progress hah..hah....
What I do is boil the carrots, onions, cabbage and wood ear fungus for about 30 minutes before I added the meatballs. Then I simmer the soup for another 20 minutes or so to make sure that the meatballs are properly cooked. The soup is then seasoned to taste and I love adding lots of pepper.
I like to simmer the soup until the cabbage is soft and mushy. Somehow, I love my cabbage like that in soups. Grandma always made fried shallots to add into her soups and these fried shallots do wonders. It brings the flavors to a different level.
This soup improves with age and the mushier the vegetable become, the more I enjoyed it. Last week, I boiled a big pot and I had this soup for 5 days in a row for breakfast. By the third day, the soup tasted wonderful and no, I did not get tired of it. And I still did one thing - dig for the wood ear fungus. Old habits die hard!
Recipe source : Phong Hong
For the meatballs :
- 300g minced meat
- 1 big onion, finely minced
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp cornflour
For the soup (quantity is up to you)
- big onions, cut into wedges
- cabbage, cut into chunky pieces
- carrots, cut into chunks
- wood ear fungus, soaked to soften
- to make the meatballs, mix all the ingredients together until the mixture is sticky.
- keep in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- put all the vegetables into a pot and pour water into the pot. The amount of water should barely cover the vegetables (add more if you want more soup).
- bring the pot to a boil and lower the heat to simmer for 30 minutes.
- Take the minced meat out from the fridge and bring the soup to a boil.
- using your hand, form the meatballs and drop them one at a time into the soup until all the minced meat are used up.
- simmer the soup for about 20 minutes and season with salt and pepper.
- serve hot and garnish with fried shallots.
Note : You may use chicken stock cubes or whatever seasoning you prefer.