Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chinese Shrimp Ball Soup and a Cookbook Review of "I Love Meatballs!" by Rick Rodgers

Meatballs are more than just a topping for a pile of spaghetti. They can be an appetizer, in a soup, on a sandwich, or sauced up and enjoyed as an entree. Meatballs are hotter than ever and I Love Meatballs! by Rick Rodgers celebrates these tasty little savory treats in all their glory.

I Love Meatballs! is a small, colorful book packed with 50 fun meatball recipes covering a variety of cuisines like Swedish, Greek, Chinese, Indian, Italian to name a few. Rogers is a respected chef and cooking instructor and a prolific writer with dozens of books on food and cooking under his belt. In I Love Meatballs!, Rodgers shows how to break beyond beef, pork and veal and use turkey, chicken, lamb, fish and seafood in some creative adaptations. There are lots of mouthwatering photos along with tips and tricks for making and storing meatballs, grinding your own meat, binders to hold them together and the best way to cook them. It's a fun little book a a great holiday gift for foodies and meatball lovers.

There are plenty delicious-sounding recipes to choose from like Fried Olive Meatballs, Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki, Maryland Crab Balls with Pink Tarter Sauce, Indonesian Meatball Soup, Vietnamese Banh Mi with Quick Pickled Vegetables, Veal Parmesan Meatball Hoagies, Beef Meatball Bourguignon, German Meatballs in Caper Sauce, Koftas with Dill, Lamb Meatballs in Green Curry Sauce, Grilled Salmon Meatballs with Iceberg Wedges and Green Goddess Sauce, and Holiday Meatball Lasagna.

Craving a big noodly soup bowl for a drizzly day and having a stash of shrimp in my freezer, made the Chinese Shrimp Ball Soup a perfect recipe to "road test" this book.

Rick Rodgers says, "A classic of Chinese cooking, make this when you want meatballs on the light side. It lends itself to many additions--snow peas, baby spinach, watercress, and just about any other fresh green vegetable. Use ready-to-peel shrimp, and the soup comes together in no time. Be sure to save the shrimp shells to make the especially flavorful stock."

Chinese Shrimp Meatball Soup
From "I Love Meatballs!" by Rick Rodgers
(Makes 4 to 6 Servings)

Shrimp Balls:
1 lb large easy-peel shrimp
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
1 scallion, minced
1 large egg, beaten
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper

shrimp shells from the peeled shrimp
6 cups canned reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
3 scallions
4 quarter-sized slices unpeeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 skein bean threads (saifun)
soy sauce for serving
Asian dark sesame oil, for serving

To make the shrimp balls, peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells for the soup. Pulse the shrimp meat in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade about 10 times, or until processed into a very course puree. Transfer to a bowl. Add the carrot, minced scallion, egg, cornstarch, ginger, salt, and pepper and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 2 hours.

To make the soup, combine the shrimp shells, broth, and rice wine in a pot. Crush 1 of the scallions, the ginger, and garlic under the flat side of a large knife and add to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes to blend the flavors.

Meanwhile, put the bean threads in a medium bowl and add enough very hot tap water to cover. Let stand until the bean thread are pliable, about 10 minutes. Drain in a wire sieve and return to the bowl. Using kitchen scissors, snip through the threads to cut them into manageable lengths. Set aside.

Use a wire strainer to remove the solid ingredients from the soup and discard. Using a heaping tablespoon for each, drop spoonfuls of the shrimp mixture into the simmering broth--they will firm up when they hit the broth. Do not attempt to shape the mixture into smooth balls with your hands. Cover and simmer until the shrimp balls are firm and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Cut the white and green parts of the remaining two scallions into long thin shreds about 2 inches long. Add the scallions and bean threads to the pot and cook until just heated through, about 1 minute more. Ladle into bowls and serve with soy sauce and sesame oil passed on the side for seasoning.

Notes/Results: Light, simple and full of flavor. The soup might seem as though it has a lot of steps but it goes together quickly and can be done in stages. (For example, I shelled the shrimp and made the stock in the morning, then reheated it when I was ready to put the soup together.) The shrimp balls were tender and held together well (I used a mini ice cream scoop to drop the meatballs into the broth making it quick and easy). The shrimp shells, ginger and garlic gave the stock a lot of concentrated delicious flavor. I did use a low-sodium veggie stock in place of chicken stock because that's what I had on hand, and I used rice sticks (maifun) instead of the bean threads (saifun) because I had them in my pantry. As is my habit, I tossed a large handful baby spinach leaves in the bowl before ladling in the soup for a little touch of green and some added nutrition. Sprinkled with some toasted sesame seeds and a drizzle of sesame oil (plus a little sriracha drizzled in for a spicy kick), this was a light but filling dinner and perfect for a cool, rainy night.

Disclosure Statement: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher but as always, my thoughts, opinions and experiences cooking from the book are entirely my own.

Let's take a look in the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here this week.

My friend Heather from girlichef made two dishes this week, a soup and a sandwich down below. About this warming Farro and Cranberry Bean Soup she says, "But I do love being tucked cozily in the house when there's a couple feet of snow inside. As long as the fridge and pantry are stocked and the whole family is home. Even playing in the yard or sledding down the street is good, as long as we can come in and warm up with a steaming cuppa hot chocolate...or spiked coffee...and a steaming bowl of hearty soup. Like a bowl of bean-thickened soup with mouthfuls of chewy farro and crunchy bacon on every spoon. I will just have to eat while closing my eyes right now...and imagine that there is snow to go with the temperatures in the low 30's. Oh yes. I can totally see it now..."

Joanne of Eats Well With Others has a seasonal treat, The River Cafe's Winter Minestrone. Joanne says "It's not fancy, but doesn't pretend to be, and it tastes kinda like something your Italian grandma would make (or at least like something my Italian grandma would make). Not heavily spiced or spicy, it's just made from good, down-to-earth ingredients...bread and butter kinda stuff. (Except totally good for you.) And while it's not something that you're necessarily going to start screaming from the rooftops about, you're going to suddenly find yourself craving it come lunchtime. And you'll be so happy when you get home and find it in your fridge. Yeah. It's definitely the kind of thing you want to come home to."

Shri from Tiffin Carrier Antic/que's! made this Mung Beans and Root Vegetables Soup and says, "This dish is from the East Indian state of Orissa. It is made with Mung Beans and an assortment of 'white' winter vegetables like radishes and turnips. Potatoes and Colocassia/ Taro roots add another texture and heartiness. It does not use turmeric or any 'hot' spice; the final tempering with cummin and asafoetida elevates this 'simple' Dal/ Soup. Perfect comfort soup/stew."

Janet from The Taste Space has a healthy, colorful Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Pomegranate Salad with a Peanut Dressing to share. She says, "This is a superfood salad if I ever saw one. Pomegranate seeds. Sweet potatoes. Broccoli. All together in a peanut dressing. Even though it doesn’t have kale, many of these veggies top my superfood chart. While I typically prefer acidic dressings, I kept the peanut butter in the dressing but substituted vegetable broth for the oil. This allows the peanut flavour to permeate the salad without dripping in dressing. In fact, the peanut flavour wasn’t that dominant, sitting back to highlight the natural flavours of the vegetables."

girlichef also has a sandwich to share this week, a hearty Open-Faced Hot Turkey Sandwich (Turkey Manhattan). She says, "In my mind, open-faced sandwiches piled high with warm roast beef or turkey and a mound of creamy mashed potatoes that are drowning in complimentary gravy conjur up the formica table tops and vinyl seats of diners past. Sustenance in the middle of a long road trip or after a night soaked in alcohol. Comfort on a plate in my little booth of the ever-bustling diner. Waitresses in comfy shoes and pony tails with pens tucked behind their ears, a coffee carafe attached to one hand, and a knack for calling every one "Hon". I can't make a turkey or roast beef without finishing off the leftover meat inside one of these sandwiches."

Thanks to Heather, Joanne, Janet and Shri for joining in this week with their delicious dishes. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!


  1. Oh my gosh, Deb...that soup looks FANTASTIC!!! I can't stop looking at it...I must make it. Soon!

  2. love this soup and what a cool cookbook

  3. Your soup sounds just wonderful and I'll bet those shrimp meatballs would taste equally delicious as an appetizer. I just happen to have a big bag of shrimp in the freezer.

  4. I just realized how many cookbooks you get to review. I am very jealous... although I was hoping for some sort of veggie meat ball review.. alas... ;)

    Another great round-up, Deb. :)

  5. Love the shrimp soup; bookmarked.

  6. sounds like a lovely soup and that fish spoon is too cute!

  7. What a lovely soup, Deb. It is one I'll be trying soon. I love shrimp and almost all Asian-style soups, so this is a natural for me and mine. I hope you have a great evening. Blessings...Mary

  8. That shrimp ball soup sounds so delicious!

  9. Rick Rodgers cookbooks are so much fun! I don't think I've ever seen shrimp/fish meatballs before...but they definitely seem perfect for soup!

  10. Heather--thanks! It was fun to make and really good. ;-)

    Rebecca--thanks! ;-)

    Arlene--they would be a very fun appetizer with a spicy dipping sauce.

    Janet-Sadly no veggie meatballs in the book. ;-)

    Shri--thank you! ;-)

    Kat--Mahalo! ;-)

    Mary--I hope you like it! ;-)

    Foodycat--thanks! It is unique and tasty. ;-)

    Joanne--They are a little unusual but very fun in soup. ;-)

  11. OMG - that look's wonderful. I adore noodle soups, so I totally have to try this - can't wait. Thanks for sharing it.
    Sue xo


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