It was Chinese New Year last month and I was yearning for some traditional Teochew New Year goodies. I swear these Teochew meatrolls came to me in a dream and begged me to make them. So I did.
Traditionally a dish for festive seasons, Teochew meatrolls, or ’Ngor Hiang’ as they are called, are one of the things that taste best home-made.
The name is derived from its signature ingredient: The Five-Spice Powder, known in Teochew as ‘five fragrances’ Ngor Hiang 五香. Without five-spice powder, this meatroll would not have its signature taste.
Some say that the meatroll is part of an array of fried snacks often served together, called Ngor Hiang Heh Zor or Ngor Hiang Heh Gerng. This wonderful array of Teochew snacks are eaten not only in the Minnan region of China, but also in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.
The best Ngor Hiangs have to have a nice crispy skin. The inside contains crunchy bits of shallots and water chestnuts. The meat is juicy and not overcooked or dried up. Some people like to eat it with a sweet dip sauce, either plum sauce or sweet soy sauce. In Singapore, some also like it with a nice sweet chili sauce.
Tempted? You should be! Here are all you need to know to make the world’s best Ngor Hiangs!
- 8-10 sheets of pliable tofu sheets, about 20x20cm 豆腐皮/油皮
- 500g fatty pork
- 8 raw medium-sized prawns, shelled
- 1 can of crabmeat or 200g of fresh crabmeat
- 6 shallots, peeled and diced
- 6-8 raw or canned water chestnut, peeled and diced
- 1 egg
- 2 tbs vegetable oil
- 2 tps salt
- 1 tps five-spice powder
- 1 tps oyster sauce
- 1 tps white pepper powder
- 1 tbs corn flour
- 200ml water
- Dip sauce: Sweet plum sauce
Serving: 8 meatrolls
- First, lick your tofu sheets to see whether they are salty. When I was living in Singapore, they used to be so salty but somehow, the ones I get in western Europe are not salty at all. If they are salty, get a wet cloth and wipe every sheet on both sides. Leave them on a big table to dry. If not, just proceed without wiping.
- Put your fatty pork, prawns, crabmeat and vegetable oil in a blender. Grind until you have a smooth paste.
- Pour it into a big bowl, stir in your shallots, water chestnut, egg and the seasoning. Mix thoroughly.
- Heat up 200ml of water in a small saucepan. Slowly pour in your corn flour. Stir until it forms a sticky paste. This will be your glue. Set aside to cool.
- On a piece of tofu sheet, place a roll of meat paste on the edge closest to you. Roll the sheet such that it forms a tube.
- Put some corn flour glue along the inner side of the sheet before you seal it. Set aside.
- Continue to make the rest of the meat rolls.
- You can either roll them in aluminum foil, place in the freezer to save them for later, or cook them rightaway.
- Heat up 200ml oil in a deep frying pan, on low heat.
- Place one or two meatrolls in it and SLOWLY let it fry. A higher temperature will char the tofu sheets but the inside will still not be cooked.
- Once the one side is crispy, turn it over.
- A well-cooked Teochew meatroll is cripsy all over and juicy on the inside. You can either serve them cut in sections or whole. Serve with a nice sweet plum dip sauce that you can get from a Chinese supermarket.
There are two tofu products that are known as ‘tofu skin or sheets’ 豆腐皮, confusingly. The tofu sheets we need here are also known as ‘oily tofu skin’ (油皮). They are very thin, oily and waxy. The other ‘tofu skin’ 豆腐皮, are sheets of tofu. They are much smaller and are wet, like tofu.