Monday 5 May 2014

Vietnamese Mushroom Balls with an Apricot-Ginger Dipping Sauce

Vietnamese Mushroom Balls with an Apricot-Ginger Dipping Sauce - vegan.

I was going over some old blog posts with the intention of deleting some of them. You see, in the early days I would blog almost everything I made - successful recipes and the experiments. I would always state in those old posts when something didn't quite work out and what I would do next time, etc...Of course for the past few years that has not been the case - I only post tried, tested and perfected recipes but I was simply more casual in the start. 

I came across this post for "Vietnamese Mushroom Balls with Plum Sauce" from October 2008 and while reading the post remembered that although they tasted great it just wasn't a very successful recipe and decided to delete it but then noticed that it has been pinned over 600 times!!! What the frack?!?! I really have no idea how that could have been, it's a terrible photo and I even mentioned in the write up that it was a bit of a botched up experiment. I mean it's appreciated of course but baffling! :-)

Well, I decided I couldn't very well delete a post that's been pinned that many times but I could definitely get in the kitchen, experiment some more and get this one right! 
Vietnamese Mushroom Balls with an Apricot-Ginger Dipping Sauce - vegan.
Originally this recipe came from "The Asian Vegan Kitchen" cookbook and called for some pretty obscure ingredients like dried wood ear mushrooms and straw mushrooms. I decided to make them with just regular ol' mushrooms to make things easier and also changed the process quite a lot to get the texture just right (they were like raw dough balls before!) Now, I am very happy with this recipe and am so glad I returned to it - these things taste incredible - packed with flavour, crispy on the outside and soft inside... So good, in fact, my husband boldly claimed that these are the best savoury things I've ever made! I think I have to agree with him :-)
Vietnamese Mushroom Balls with an Apricot-Ginger Dipping Sauce - vegan.
For the dipping sauce, the old post just called for store bought plum sauce and I thought I could probably do a bit better than that now :-) Apricots actually go really well with mushrooms and I just happened to have a jar of apricot jam in the fridge not doing anything so I thought about making a plum-style sauce but apricot flavoured instead. I found a recipe for plum sauce that called for plum jam and based this one on that. 

OMG - I can safely say that I will never buy plum sauce or even Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce again. It is incredible: sweet and spicy with a good flavouring of ginger - it is the perfect accompaniment to these balls and best of all - incredibly easy and only takes 10 minutes to make.

Recipe Notes
• If you can't find white rice flour you can use cornstarch (cornflour in the UK/Eire) but I do find the rice flour gives both a better texture and taste.
• I did try baking these as well as I know a lot of people are not keen on deep frying and basically, I can't recommend it. A lot of the breadcrumbs fall off, they don't get that crisp shell which is so important and the filling goes a bit chewy. Just fry them and enjoy these at their best! Fried they have 53 calories each and 3.2g of fat. Baked they have 38 calories each and 1.5g of fat. Really, it's not so much to worry about! Treat yourself :-)

Vietnamese Mushroom Balls with an Apricot-Ginger Dipping Sauce - vegan.

Vietnamese Mushroom Balls:

1 Tbsp peanut oil
200g mushrooms, diced small
1/2 carrot, diced small
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 inch cube ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 fresh hot red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1/2 tsp sweet freedom syrup (or light agave)
6-7 grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup white rice flour
30g breadcrumbs or panko
~a little more peanut oil to coat the balls
~vegetable oil to fry

Heat the peanut oil in a wok. Add the mushrooms carrot, salt and pepper and fry until cooked and any liquid is gone. Add the garlic, ginger and chili and fry a few minutes more, until fragrant. Add the soy sauce and syrup and fry until most the liquid is gone, it’ll be wet looking but you don’t want any pools of liquid. 

Transfer to bowl and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour. Remove from the fridge and sprinkle over the rice flour, toss with a fork until everything has a coating of flour.

Have a little bowl of peanut oil ready. The best way to make the balls and ensure they stick together is to press the mixture into a tablespoon (a measuring tablespoon, not a cutlery tablespoon) once it's pressed in, scoop it out then take some of the peanut oil to grease your hands and press and shape into a ball, ensuring that the ball is coated lightly in the peanut oil (this will help ensure the breadcrumbs stick). Repeat until all the mixture is used up - you should get 12 balls. 
Note: photo is from when I made a half recipe, hence only 6 :-)
Wash and dry hands then roll each ball into the breadcrumbs, pressing the crumbs lightly into the ball. Repeat until all the balls are coated.

Heat a pot of vegetable oil to 350F. I use a large pot and about 1 litre of oil, make sure the oil is only about halfway up the pot. Carefully lower 6 of the balls into the oil and fry until crisp and deeply golden brown – this should only take a few minutes maximum. With a deep fry safe slotted spoon, scoop them out and place in a paper towel lines bowl to drain. Repeat with the other 6 balls. Let cool slightly and serve with the Apricot-Ginger dipping sauce.

Apricot-Ginger Dipping Sauce
Apricot-Ginger Dipping Sauce:

113g apricot jam (¼ cup + 1 Tbsp)
½ Tbsp rice wine vinegar
¾ tsp dark brown sugar, packed
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon finely grated ginger
2 Tbsp water

Place everything into a small saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, whisking all the while until smooth. Once it just comes to a boil, turn off the heat. If you want the sauce right away then transfer the sauce to a bowl and place the bowl into another bowl of ice water (with ice cubes) to cool quickly. Give it a whisk now and again while cooling to keep it smooth and even. Serve at room temperature or chilled, cover and refrigerate leftovers. After chilling you may have to add a splash of water if it's gone a bit too thick.

Apricot-Ginger Dipping Sauce for Vietnamese Mushroom Balls

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