Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My Beef Balls Are Better Yours ...

Balls to you. Yeah, that was my reaction too. I was awakened from a much-needed sleep by 3A Gurl one morning after an exhausting night of battling pain and medication. For a few moments, my befuddled and sleep-addled brain reeled from the shock as I wondered what I had done to deserve this cussing.

It took a few minutes before I realised 3A was talking about beef balls. Apparently, her mother carted a bunch of beef balls all the way from Malaysia for her when the parental units were visiting. Dazedly, I asked if Singapore had suddenly run out of beef balls. I was informed that Malaysian beef balls were superior because they use real beef.

I was pondering Singaporean beef balls' usage of fake beef and was trying to imagine what a fake cow would look like when 3A wisely deduced from my sudden silence that I must be imagining mutant cows in my head. She headed that off by telling me that Malaysian beef balls do not contain any tendons or spare parts but only the freshest, yummiest fresh meat.

Oh, I see … reluctantly I let go of the mental vision of Far Side-ish mutant cows.

I was terribly curious about the bovine difference across the Causeway but due to my illness, I did not have an opportunity to try these out till a week after I collected them. One day when I was feeling well enough to cook but still ill enough to crave soups, I unearthed the beef balls and decided to cook a huge pot of soup to last me a couple of days.

I wanted the Malaysian beef balls to take centre in this soup so I could gauge their alleged superiority. Further rummaging in my dismal fridge proved my resources were limited to some sad looking vegetables since I had not had the chance to go shopping during my recuperation. It was obviously time for another leftover soup. I unearthed an aged clump of broccoli. Eying it dubiously, I managed to trim and cull a fairly respectable amount to convince me that a simple broccoli and beef balls soup dish was a possibility. Don’t you just love alliteration in your food?

Broccoli and Beef Balls Soup
2 cups broccoli florets
About 15 beef balls
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ large onion, sliced
½ cup prawn stock
Beef bouillon cube
1 tsp red miso paste
1 tbsp groundnut oil
Black pepper powder

1. Heat the oil and add the onions and garlic and sauté till softened and fragrant

2. Add the prawn stock and about 5-6 cups of water with the beef bouillon cube and miso paste and bring to the boil

3. Add the beef balls and mushrooms and cover

4. When the balls rise to the top, add the broccoli and cook for another 3-5 minutes

5. Check the seasoning and add salt if it is still too bland or water if it is too salty. Give it about 3-5 dashes of pepper and bring it to a simmer before turning off the heat.

6. Serve hot with rice

Honestly, the Malaysian beef balls were quite delicious and had enough bounce to give it a nice texture yet retain its tenderness. However, I truly could not discern anything particularly unique in taste, texture, shape, aroma or even appearance to lend it a significant difference from locally produced or available quality beef balls.

Then again, I tend to make my own beef balls and if I did purchase any pre-made beef balls, I typically purchase the Vietnamese or Thai ones with their distinctive coriander or laos top notes. Still, I was incredibly touched by 3A’s thoughtful gesture and cherished each Malaysian beef ball for all the best intentions and care with which they were hand carried across the border.

The soup was a wholesome delight. Tasty, healthy, flavoursome yet uncomplicated, it was a wonderfully comforting and satisfying. This fluid incarnation of the archetypal Chinese combination of beef and broccoli was easy on both the eyes and the palate. The mushrooms were slick and almost creamy against the nubby texture and soft grassiness of the broccoli.

I happily slurped three small bowls of the soup with some hot, steamed rice and I swear I could feel the instant effect of all that wholesome goodness. With all the medication I had been on, my body was shakily fragile but after dinner, I felt a blessed stillness anchor me gently.

What a welcome relief! I attributed it to the soup. Perhaps some of the maternal love from 3A Mum was transmitted from the beef balls? Perhaps all of 3A Gurl’s concern for my health were embedded into the individual balls of well wishes? Whatever it was, I was grateful for it.

For taste, the soup deserved a 8.5/10. For health, it garnered a well-earned 9/10. For a symbol of friendship and caring, it warranted a 10/10.

Sometimes food nourishes not only the body but the soul and faith in human kindness. It reinforces my mantra of Make Food, Not War. Which ranks right up there with my other mantra of Make Dance, Not War. Do not continue that line of thought now … this is a family blog.


Blogger Passionate Eater said...

I'm glad that comfort food (delicious beef balls soup) is making you feel better. Get lots of rest and make sure the people you love are taking good care of you. That is critical for healing and for the immune system.

Get well soon MM! Best wishes.

2:51 pm  
Blogger MM said...

Thanks so much, PE!

4:44 am  

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