Spicy Dragon Balls
I would first assure anyone reading this that absolutely NO dragons were harmed, or even painlessly neutered, in order to make this dish. The balls are actually made with ground pork, mixed with Conpoy and minced green chili, and then served with sweet bell peppers in a slightly sweet sauce containing red chili paste.
Also, although this dish may sound like one of those classic Chinese dishes with a hopelessly romantic and poetic story behind the name, it is a creation of my own kitchen and I came up with the name for the simple reason that I couldn’t think of anything better other than a clunky, cumbersome one identifying the ingredients. The fresh green chili in the balls, and the red-paste in the sauce, do, I suppose, suggest the sort of fiery-heat associated with dragons, so… there’s that, at least, I guess….
The Basic Method
The died scallops, or Conpoy, that I am using for this recipe are extremely small. I like these sort as they are very sweet and add a nice umami boost to the pork along with a little variation in texture. Also, they usually plump up nicely after being soaked for a relatively short time.
If you are new to using dried scallops, or unsure about re-hydrating them, please feel free to look at my introductory post on How to Prepare and Use Dried Scallops.
It would be tragic, and possibly even a mortal sin, to discard the soaking water from rehydrating Conpoy. Some of the concentrated flavors of dried seafood will leach out into the soaking water when you are reconstituting it, and it should always be saved. Even if you don’t need it immediately, it can be frozen to be added to soups, sauces and stews at some later date.
Here, the soaking liquid from our Conpoy is mixed with Soy sauce, sugar, chili paste, and a cornstarch slurry to make the sauce blend to be used to finish the dish.
Once soaked, the conpoy is shredded into its constituent fibers, it is mixed with the pork along with minced green chili (Jalapeno in this case), as well as garlic paste and a little salt. The mix is then formed into small balls and these are quickly browned over a medium heat and then set aside.
You can use any combination of sweet bell peppers you like to make this dish, but a rainbow of red, yellow and green is the prettiest. One caveat, though… if you do use green bell peppers, these should only be cooked at the last minute for service right away. Precooking the pepper ahead of time, or allowing the dish to cool and the get rewarmed is not a good idea if green peppers are included as they lose their bright color and become an ugly drab, grayish green shadow of themselves.
The final cooking is relatively short, and just requires the sauce to be slightly reduce and cleared, and the meat to be added back to pan with the peppers and heated through. This is best served piping hot with rice, or even noodles.
Your Recipe Card:
Spicy Dragon Balls
- 1/2 lb. Ground Pork;
- ¼ cup small Conpoy;
- 2 cups of mixed Bell Peppers in 1-inch chunks;
- 1 medium Jalapeno minced;
- 1 tsp. Garlic Paste;
- ½ tsp. Salt;
- 3 tbsp. Soy Sauce;
- 1 tbsp. Sugar;
- 1-2 tbsp. Chili Paste;
- 1 tbsp. Cornstarch mixed to a slurry in a little water.
- Put the Conpoy in a small bowl and pour over a half-cup of boiling water. Leave this to cool and soak until the conpoy are soft and plump.
- Once the conpoy are soft enough, drain them, reserving the soaking liquid, and shred them into fine fibers with your fingers. Combine them with the pork, garlic, minced Jalapeno and the salt, and mix well.
- Stir the cornstarch slurry into the reserved soaking water from the conpoy and add the soy sauce, sugar and chili paste. Set this aside to use a sauce later.
- Roll the pork mixture into small balls and then sauté in a pan over medium heat until lightly browned, then remove to a bowl or plate.
- Drain off all but a tablespoon or two of fat from the pan, add the peppers and sauté until they soften.
- Finally, add back the balls and when they are heated through add the sauce mix. Stir over high heat until the sauce has cleared and thickened then plate and serve while hot.