sheep

A Very Sheepish Year 

The Chinese Lunar New Year begins on Thursday, February the 19th, 2015. That’s the easy bit! As for what animal it is, that’s the confusing bit. It’s either the Goat, Sheep or Ram. It is the only confusing one of the Zodiac. The confusion comes from the translation of the Chinese character for the 8th animal of the Zodiac which is yáng 羊

Yáng is used interchangeably for sheep, goats and, even more confusingly, some antelopes such as gazelles. To distinguish between these animals, the Chinese add a character in front of the yáng character. As the character on the Zodiac wheel is just yáng, it is up to you what animal you choose. This is what the Chinese do. Some parts of China are celebrating the Year of the Goat, some are celebrating the Year of the Sheep, while others are celebrating the Year of the Ram. The Eastern countries that have adopted the Chinese Zodiac have made a choice of which animal they believe represents the 8th Zodiac. Some have chosen the goat, others the ram or sheep. In the West, there is still debate about which animal should be celebrated. To the best of my knowledge, no-one is celebrating the Year of the Antelope 🙂

Whether you are Team Goat, Team Sheep, Team Ram or Team Antelope you must try these delicious Chinese Lion’s Head Meatballs. The meatball is supposed to resemble the head of a lion while the cabbage is its mane.

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Ingredients
for the meatballs
500g ground pork
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine*
peanut oil

for the broth
peanut oil
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, finely minced
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
1 + 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon sugar
4 large Chinese cabbage leaves (wombok)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Instructions
For the meatballs:
In a bowl, mix together the pork, egg, cornflour, spring onion, salt, soy sauce and wine. Form into 4 large meatballs. Flatten slightly so they are not completely round.
Heat peanut oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.
For the broth:
Heat peanut oil in a saucepan large enough to hold the meatballs in one layer over high heat. Fry the spring onion, ginger and garlic until fragrant. Add the chicken stock and sugar and bring to the boil. Carefully place meatballs in a single layer in the stock, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Place a cabbage leaf on top of each meatball. Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through and there is no pinkness in the middle.
Serve one meatball covered with a cabbage leaf in each bowl. Ladle with stock and drizzle with some sesame oil.

* you can substitute Chinese rice wine with pale dry sherry or dry white wine.

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