Category: Food

Ah yes, the bug-monkey meatballs again. Or is it monkey-bug? For a creature we made up ourselves we sure don’t know anything about it. This week we’re bringing you another version of these little cocktail appetizers. This time they’re made out of mushrooms and lentils. And before you even say “but I don’t like mushrooms” know that once they’re minced, fried, and mixed in you can’t tell they’re there. We promise! A few of our squad mates down right hate mushrooms, but love these.

Faux Bug-Monkey Meatballs

 

These little meat-less balls are similar to our original Bug-Monkey Meatballs, with a few differences. The biggest is a base of lentils and mushrooms instead of pork and fish. Since the lentils and mushrooms are on the softer side there’s also less soy sauce with more cornstarch and breadcrumbs to help them bind together. Because the mixture is a bit softer they are also baked instead of pan fried. The sauce is almost the same with the exception of the removal of the fish sauce and extra soy sauce to compensate for it.

 

Ingredients. Piled artistically. Because we could.

 

The lentils are first cooked in vegetable stock and liquid smoke to give them some extra flavor. Once they’re soft and all the liquid has been absorbed three-fourths get pureed in a food processor. Pureeing some of the lentils creates a base that is easy to form and binds well, while keeping some of the lentils whole gives the “meat”balls more texture so they don’t end up mushy.

 

Then mushrooms are cooked in a mixture of vegetable oil and coconut oil. The coconut oil will firm up while the mixture rests in the fridge and make these easier to roll into balls, but will melt when cooked and help keep things “juicy”. Once all the moisture from the mushrooms has cooked out and they become crispy we add the garlic and ginger for a minute to release their flavor.

 

“Meat”ball mixture

 

Everything is then mixed together and put in the fridge for an hour. This rest time lets the coconut oil solidify. Towards the end of the rest time preheat the oven. We tried pan frying these, like the original Bug-Monkey Meatballs, and it did not work well. The softer mix didn’t hold up and they fell apart. If you are set on pan frying these and are fine with them not being vegan you can add an egg to help create a tighter bind.

 

“Meat”balls on the baking tray.

Use about a tablespoon of filling and roll into little balls. Make sure you line your baking sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone mat. Don’t use tin foil. These little suckers will stick to the foil.  Bake for 30 minutes, flipping them around every 10 minutes.

 

While they bake, make the sauce. It’s almost exactly the same as the sauce from the original recipe, except you’ll use the pan the mushrooms were cooked in and extra soy sauce instead of fish sauce.

 

Once the sauce is done and the balls are baked combine them, place in a bowl (We understand if your bowl isn’t square and fuzzy. We ourselves could only get a square bowl), garnish with green onions, and serve!

 

Faux-Bug-Monkey Meatballs with toothpicks!

 

Faux Bug-Monkey Meatballs

1 cup green or brown lentils
2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil; divided use
3 tablespoons coconut oil; divided use
8 ounces cremini mushrooms; minced
4 cloves finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
4 tablespoons Chinese garlic chives, finely chopped (or a mix of the green part of scallions and regular chives)
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Prepare lentils by rinsing them and adding to a pot with the vegetable stock and liquid smoke. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat down and simmer covered until all the liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender (about 15-20 minutes).

Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons coconut oil over medium heat in a medium sauté pan. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have lost all moisture and have become crispy. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Add 3/4 of the lentils to a food processor and pulse until a thick paste forms. Pour into a large bowl, along with the reserved lentils, the cooked mushroom mix, chives, peppercorns, salt, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, cornstarch, breadcrumbs, and the remaining vegetable oil and coconut oil. Stir thoroughly to combine.

Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Form into small meatballs, about 1 tablespoon each. Place the meatballs on a parchment or sil-pat lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the balls every 10 minutes.

 

For the sauce:

1 clove minced garlic
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4-1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
3/4 cup vegetable stock or water
3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
Cornstarch slurry (2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved into 1 tablespoon water)

To the skillet the mushrooms were cooked in, add the garlic, red peppers flakes, and Sichuan peppercorns. Stir for about 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant.

Add the vegetable stock, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Stir to combine, making sure to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet left from the meatballs. Bring to a simmer.

Add the cornstarch slurry and continue to simmer for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly, until the sauce has thickened. Add the meatballs to the sauce, and stir to coat them.

Garnish with sliced green onions and serve with toothpicks.

 

The opening scene of our recent Jedi Adventures arc features the Jedi eating noodles at a street vendor on Coruscant. For these noodles we wanted a fast and easy recipe, since these would have needed to be dished out quickly as people ordered them. The sauce requires no cooking and can be made while the water for the noodles are boiling.

Noodles, with extra sambal oelek for serving

 

These noodles are seriously delicious and so easy. They’re great for weeknight dinners when you want something fast with as little effort as possible. They are also quite tasty cold, making them wonderful to pack for lunch.

 

Noodles!

 

The sauce is rich, creamy, and just a little spicy. It starts with sesame paste (sometimes called tahini) and peanut butter. Together these create the rich, luscious base of the sauce. Soy sauce and rice vinegar are added for flavor, sugar for a touch of sweetness, and sambal oelek for just a bit of heat. Then hot vegetable broth is added to thin out the sauce.

 

 

Tabletop One’s Tips:

  • Almost any type of round, Asian noodles work for this dish.
    • At normal grocery stores, look for fresh noodles in the Asian section. They will often have vacuum-sealed packets of noodles.
    • If buying dried noodles, look for “white noodles”; noodles made with white flour instead of semolina. Italian pasta is made with semolina wheat flour, which gives it its distinctive yellow color, but imparts a flavor that is not ideal for this dish.
  • Tahini can be found either with the other nut butters, or the “international” aisle, specifically the Greek or Mediterranean section.
  • Sambal oelek is a Southeast Asian chili paste and can usually be found where ever your store sells sriracha (probably the most famous maker of sriracha, Huy Fong, also makes a sambal oelek. It also has a rooster on the jar.)
  • This recipe is easily scaled up to make more than one serving.

 

Coruscant Street Noodles [serves 1]

6 ounces fresh wheat noodles (or 3 ounces of dried noodles)
1 tablespoon sesame paste/tahini
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sambal oelek chili paste, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup hot vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chopped green onions

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package.

While the noodles are cooking, make the sauce by combining the remaining ingredients, except the green onions. Stir until it forms a smooth, even sauce.

When the noodles are cooked, drain them and toss with the sauce, and place into a bowl.

Top with the chopped green onions and serve immediately.

 

Bug-monkeys, also known as monkey-bugs or “those gross things.” Served to the crew in episode 3, they were described as “little diced-up bits of meat with toothpicks” and were in a square, fuzzy bowl.

This one took a while to figure out. Were they chunks of whole meat? Were the diced-up bits formed together to make bigger pieces? What does a bug-monkey even taste like?

After some discussion we decided they were small meatballs that had a slight fish taste. We spent some time figuring out exactly what that meant. At one point we even threw out the idea of frog legs! But eventually a pork-fish blend was settled on. We picked flounder for its light flavor, thinking it would blend well with the pork.  The rest of the dish was based on a favorite cocktail meatball recipe of ours.

The final product!

We didn’t have any square, fuzzy bowls, but we did have this adorable Chewbacca bowl!

 

First, let’s start with the aromatics and seasoning. Garlic, ginger, and Chinese chives build the foundation of this recipe. Chinese chives have a wonderful garlic taste to them that works great in this dish.

Garlic, ginger, and chives

Next comes the Sichuan peppercorns. This spice has a unique “mouth numbing” property that’s hard to describe until you’ve tried it. We like ours with a fairly course ground, but you can grind yours as finely as you like. We used a mortar and pestle, but feel free to use a spice grinder.

Sichuan peppercorns

Ground Sichuan peppercorns

After that we add salt, sugar, sesame oil, and soy sauce for added flavor, and cornstarch and breadcrumbs to help bind the meatballs together.

The meatball mixture before mixing (not shown: breadcrumbs)

 

Once the mixture is well combined, we roll them into balls using about 1 tablespoon of the mix. They are then placed on lined baking sheets and placed in the fridge for an hour to firm up. The recipe says to use parchment paper, but silicone baking liners like the one in our photo will work as well.

Meatballs on a lined baking tray

 

When the meatballs are ready to be cooked, heat up some oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the meatballs on all sides until they are deep brown. Don’t worry if your skillet or pan doesn’t hold all the meatballs at once. Work in batches and keep the cooked meatballs on a plate while you cook the remaining ones.

Our first batch of meatballs

 

Once the meatballs are cooked we’ll begin making the sauce. In the same pan you cooked the meatballs you’ll add minced garlic, Sichuan peppercorns, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 30 seconds until fragrant, stirring the whole time to make sure the garlic doesn’t  burn.

Garlic, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes

 

Then we’ll add the fish sauce, stock, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Stir well, making sure to scrape up any browned bits left in the pan from the meatballs.

Waiting for the sauce to simmer

 

Once the sauce begins to simmer, add the cornstarch slurry and stir until thickened.

Adding the cornstarch, then whisking

 

 

Once the sauce has thickened add the meatballs back in and stir to coat.

Meatballs being coated in sauce

 

Pour into your square, fuzzy bowl (or whatever you have lying around), garnish with some sliced green onions, and serve!

The final product

 

Tabletop One’s Tips:

  • Make sure the flounder is ground well. Using a food processor is highly recommended.
  • Not sure your guest’s will like the fish? Don’t worry, it can be substituted with ground chicken, turkey, beef, or even more pork.
  • We highly recommend heading to your local Asian grocer to get Sichuan peppercorns and Chinkiang vinegar (or buying from an online source). They really make this dish. If you can’t get them the Sichuan peppercorns can be substituted with ground black pepper. The Chinkiang vinegar can be substituted for 2 parts rice wine vinegar, 1 part balsamic (1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar= 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon balsamic).
  • Shaoxing wine can be replaced by a dry sherry or a dry Chinese rice wine. It can also be replaced by more broth if you do not want to use alcohol.

 

Bug-Monkey or Monkey-Bug Meatballs (makes about 40 meatballs)

16 ounces ground pork
12 ounces ground flounder flesh (may substitute sole, haddock, or cod)
4 cloves finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
4 tablespoons Chinese garlic chives, finely chopped (or a mix of the green part of scallions and regular chives)
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Add all ingredients except vegetable oil to a large mixing bowl. Stir until completely combined.

Form into small meatballs, about 1 tablespoon each. Place the meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for an hour.

Heat the oil in a cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the meatballs until browned on all sides and cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside on paper towels to drain.

 

For the sauce:

1 clove minced garlic
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4-1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
2 teaspoons fish sauce
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock or water
3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
Cornstarch slurry (2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved into 1 tablespoon water)

To the skillet add the garlic, red peppers flakes, and Sichuan peppercorns. Stir for about 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant.

Add the fish sauce, stock, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Stir to combine, making sure to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet left from the meatballs. Bring to a simmer.

Add the cornstarch slurry and continue to simmer for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly, until the sauce has thickened. Add the meatballs to the sauce, and stir to coat them.

 

Garnish with sliced green onions and serve with toothpicks.

The finished meatballs, complete with toothpicks.

 

 

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