Tibetan Meatball Soup

This Tibetan Meatball Soup is a simple dish made from a short list of ingredients that come together to create a delicious, nourishing and wonderfully comforting dish. The recipe is from Taste Tibet: Family Recipes from the Himalayas by Julie Kleeman and Yeshi Jampa and is typical of the traditional meals shared throughout the cookbook.

A short list of simple ingredients including ground beef, an egg to bind, and coriander leaves, onion, garlic, salt and Sichuan pepper go into the meatballs. The soup is nothing more than the broth created by cooking the meatballs in water. To make the soup, meatballs and their cooking liquid are supplemented by baby spinach leaves and coriander leaves.

Tibetan Meatball Soup

We paired with another recipe from the book, giant fluffy sharing bread.

Find out more about this beautiful book in my full review of Taste Tibet by Julie Kleeman and Yeshi Jampa.

Tibetan Meatball Soup

Tibetan Meatball Soup

In Tibet, the practice of brides taking several husbands from the same family has been commonplace since ancient times. Yeshi’s mother married two brothers, and Yeshi and his brothers and sisters know them simply as ‘older father’ and ‘younger father’. Officially this system is now forbidden under Chinese law, but in rural areas it remains normal practice. Given the specific challenges of Tibet’s topography, it has advantages: with little arable land available, and much labour needed to tend it, the marriage of a family’s sons to one bride ensures that the land stays within the family, and that there are sufficient hands to both work in the fields and guarantee a male presence in the home. The practice also tends to reduce the number of heirs, and hence the number of mouths the land must feed. Although Yeshi’s younger father is now vegetarian, he used to enjoy meatballs way back when. Yeshi remembers that this dish would be his contribution to weddings and other major events taking place in the village. Weddings typically last two or three days and have up to 400 guests, so you can imagine how many meatballs would be needed!
Servings 4
Author Julie Kleeman and Yeshi Jampa

Ingredients

  • 350 g (12 oz) minced (ground) beef, ideally 15–20% fat content
  • 1 free-range egg
  • ½ small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns (yerma)
  • teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Plain all-purpose white flour, for dusting
  • 125 g (4½ oz) baby spinach leaves, washed
  • Coriander (cilantro leaves), to garnish

Instructions

  • Place the minced beef in a mixing bowl and crack in the egg. Mix together very well using your hand or a fork, then add the onion, garlic, Sichuan pepper, coriander and ½ teaspoon of salt and mix everything together thoroughly.

  • Sprinkle a little flour onto a chopping board. Pinch off a 2.5 cm (1 inch) piece of the meat mixture and roll it between your palms to make a ball, then roll it through the flour on the board. Don’t douse it in flour – you are aiming for a light coating. Pick up the meatball and roll it between your hands again, then give it another roll in the flour before setting aside. Repeat with the rest of the meat mixture, adding a little more flour to the board as needed. You should end up with about 30 meatballs all told.
  • Measure out 1 litre (4 cups) of boiling water into a large wok and place over a medium heat. When the water returns to the boil, add the meatballs and stir them around gently, adding a little more water if the meatballs are not fully covered. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, turn the heat up as far as it will go and simmer the meatballs for 4–5 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the final minute of cooking, add the spinach to the soup.

  • Just before you take the wok off the heat, check that the meatballs are cooked by fishing one out and cutting it open: it should be brown all the way through, not pink.
  • Serve the meatball soup in bowls, garnished with coriander.

This is such a warming and comforting dish, a perfect soother if you are feeling cold, sad or poorly.

Tibetan Meatball Soup

 

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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Taste Tibet: Family Recipes from the Himalayas by Julie Kleeman and Yeshi Jampa from publisher Murdoch Books. Book food photography by Ola O. Smit; Book travel photography by Keiko Wong. 

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