This past week has been occupied with World Cup, World Cup and making joong. (It got stretched out over three days, because I kept running out of rice, and you need to soak it overnight before stuffing). Even though Dragon Boat festival was on June 16.
I haven’t made joong in 2 years, so I was really due to make them this year. We’re down to one left in the freezer, and I was worried I’d forget how to make them if I didn’t make them again soon.
It only takes 3 days of advance prep if you cheat on The Holy Grail of recipes: my mom-in-law’s. Prepping the leaves is the most tedious part of the overall process. Soak in lye solution, boil in lye solution, and then scrub each single leaf . . . I skipped part 3.
Assembling the ingredients is a lot of fun in comparison. Since we have a really good local German butcher/processed meat producer – Dittmer’s – I went for their side pork. I also browsed their other offerings, and picked up … smoked pork jowl. I figured it could replace laap yuk (Chinese cured meat.) The pork jowl has thick layers of fat interspersed with a little meat, and imparts yummy smoky flavor. (After the fact, Joe suggested corned beef.)
I was not going to mess with the Chinese sausage: that original stays.
Glutinous rice: 10 pounds of short grain Japanese. Leftovers from a 5 pound bag of long grain Thai.
Mung bean – check
Peanuts – check
Rehydrated shitakes cooked with a little red fermented bean curd, sugar and soy sauce.
Dried shrimp – check
Dried scallop (for Joe who doesn’t like dried shrimp) – check
Salted egg yolks – check (Joe loves these. Many a gorgeous sunset has been compared to a salted egg yolk. I avoid these like the plague.)
Sautéed white bulbs from green onions.
Another improvisation – carrots sticks. Joong are singularly lacking in vegetation. I wonder what vegetarians put in their joong, mock meat?
The good thing about joong is that you can customize it to include whatever you like, and exclude the things you hate. The bad thing is, you can’t tell what’s inside after it’s all wrapped up. The trick is to tie up the similar ones together. And then pray that the caravan doesn’t come unstrung in the boiling.
The other problem is when you tie three for one person, and tie another three for someone else, and then you have to figure out which three is which. I found some champagne – sorry, sparkling wine corks and tied them on, since cork is boilable.
I decided to make the joong on a short notice, and invited the usual suspects. Only Anne and her husband Sam could make it; they’d never made joong before. They caught on pretty quickly and took home a half-dozen of joong to boil at home, since boiling takes 4 hours. (You could boil it for a shorter time, and it would be fully cooked, but the flavor won’t be as melded.)
Folding and tying joong – you have to make a few ugly ones before muscle memory kicks in to let you make prettier joong. Thing is, all the good ingredients get used up early on the in process, so the later/prettier ones might not a proper array of ingredients.
The good thing about boiling joong during World Cup is that you can wait out two of the four hours watching matches.
Inevitably, there are certain ingredients that are leftover: I can’t make each joong with a perfect ratio of ingredients such that I use up everything.
This time I had leftover:
Leaves – in theory I could dry them and use them for next year’s joong, saving me the lye water process. In reality I always forget and have to buy new packages of leaves.
Peanuts – I shouldn’t have soaked so many.
Side pork cubes
Chinese sausage: I cut up way too many
Green onion stalks
Runny salted egg yolk – when you cut them in half, they aren’t solid.
And whopping 40 ounces of liquid salted egg white, (only the raw salted eggs yolks go into the joong)
Since I hate to waste food, I could get creative in using up all those left over ingredients that couldn’t be stored since it was cut up or rehydrated already. I also called my Joe’s mom for advice on the egg whites. She usually uses them for egg drop garnish with green vegetables like mustard greens or water cress.
The side pork was browned, and tossed into the crock pot with peanuts, mushrooms carrots and some white wine for a stew. The fat from the side pork browning I used to fry up the dried shrimp, which I’ll simply snack on.
I steamed some of the Chinese sausage, and then diced it. Took some egg white, and beat it with little water. The grease from on the plate that was used to steam the Chinese sausage I rubbed all over the plate and the poured in the egg-white mixture, threw in some of the cooked sausage and chopped green onion. After steaming for 15 minutes, it comes out like a soufflé. A bit on the salty side, though.
The rest of the ingredients I made into fried rice. I fried some more egg white and set it aside. Then I sautéed the dried scallops, added in the leftover regular rice, then egg yolk, green onion and Chinese sausage. Fortunately salted egg yolk cooks up like regular egg yolk in a fried rice – the main reason why I dislike salted egg yolk is the powdery texture. It was rather pretty, the rice tinged yellow, with specks of green (onion) and red (sausage.)
I still have a lot of salted egg white leftover. Sigh.