Year of the Snake: A Tale of Woe

February 24, 2013




I’m not normal. I’m sure that’s a shocker to you Readers, but it’s true. Me=one odd duck.

Example? I hate New Year’s Eve, American style. Really hate it.

Do I want to leave my house in freezing weather? No.

Do I want to cram my post-holiday body into a little black dress? Nope.

Do I want to swill cheap champagne in a big room with people I don’t know and stay up far too late, so I feel like a corpse in the morning? Uber no.

New Year’s Eve and I aren’t friends.

However, I adore Chinese New Year and look forward to it every year.

I ain’t Chinese.

Not that I let that leeetle detail stop me, because in my house, we’re celebrating Chinese New Year. There’s so much that I love about it: gathering in your home with family and friends, sitting down to a meal prepared with love, slurping down noodles and dumplings for longevity and luck and fortune in the coming year…that’s good stuff.

The thought of ordering takeout is verboten on Chinese New Year. This is about spoiling people and spending days in the kitchen preparing for the feast. Spending days in the kitchen isn’t normally something I’m fond of; thus, my derision for Thanksgiving dinner. Like I said, I’m weird.

I planned dinner for 8 (and children) to celebrate the Year of the Snake a few weeks ago. Not that I have seating for 8 people and children, mind you, but that’s a minor detail. I was so excited that I committed the cardinal sin of dinner parties: I picked a bunch of interesting-sounding shit *swear jar* with odd ingredients that I’ve never made before and decided to make it.

That’s gastronomic roulette, folks.

But I was so excited that I had no common sense.

So I shopped. And bought weird ingredients. And prepped ahead, because this was a feast, y’all, and we do feasts right!

Then Miss M. flung her germy, feverish, snot-ridden self into our bedroom in the wee hours of Day of Feast.

*swear jar*

Not only did I have to postpone the feast, I had to figure out what to do with the dishes I’d already prepped (for 8 people and children) and scurry around trying to salvage $100 of seafood. Awesome!

One of the dishes prepped and ready to go were these (never made before) Shen shu. According to my Gourmet Today cookbook: “Shen shu, literally ‘pearls’ in Chinese, are a staple in many homes in New York city’s Chinatown, where they are often served as part of a large, family-style meal. The gently seasoned meatballs are a delicious study in contrasts–in one bite, you get tender meat with scallions and crunchy water chestnuts, all coated with satisfyingly chewy sticky rice.”

Are you drooling yet? Don’t those sound good?

Yes they do, until you find yourself stuck with 30 meticulously-rolled little meatballs on your hands. At least I hadn’t rolled the meatballs in the rice yet, so I felt confident that I could freeze most of them.

In a rare moment of wisdom, I realized that I probably ought to test-drive these suckers on my family before serving them to a crowd. I was too lazy to roll very tiny meatballs in rice, though, so I combined several meatballs together to make a larger, oval-shaped package, and then rolled away.

I plopped them in the steamer, and since I’d already bastardized *swear jar* the recipe, I decided to serve the meatballs as a filler for lettuce wraps–sort of Chinese/Vietnamese fusion, so to speak.

We gobbled these suckers up. They’re tremendous. I’m so glad I have a freezer full of them to serve this coming weekend when we have Year of the Snake: Redux. No sickies allowed. And no more snow, dangit! Although it’s predicted…tune in later in the week.


Rice-Studded Chinese Meatballs

from Gourmet Today

makes about 30


1 cup Chinese or Japanese short-grain sticky rice

1-2 romaine lettuce leaves

1 pound meat loaf mix

1 small bunch scallions

1/2 cup diced water chestnuts, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine, preferably Shaoxing or medium-dry sherry

1 tablespoon lightly beaten egg white

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Cover rice with cold water by 1 inch in a bowl and soak for at least 2 hours.

Meanwhile, fit a steamer rack into a large skillet. Add enough water to the skillet to coat the bottom but not touch the steamer rack. Line steamer rack with lettuce leaves to prevent sticking.

Stir together all ingredients (except rice) until well combined.

Drain rice in a sieve and rinse well under cold water. Drain again and transfer to a shallow dish.

Roll about a tablespoon of meat mixture into a ball, roll in rice to coat and transfer to steamer rack. Repeat the process with remaining meat mixture. You should have about 30 rice-coated balls (there will be leftover rice). Make sure they are in one even layer on the steamer rack.

Set steamer rack in the skillet and bring the water to  a boil. Cover the skillet tightly and steam over high heat until meatballs are cooked through, about 25 minutes. Check water occasionally, adding more as necessary.



{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie February 24, 2013 at 5:57 pm

You are an odd duck, that’s for sure–and that’s why we all <3 the kitch witch so very much! PS wish I was celebrating Chinese New Year at your house! Those meatballs look damn tasty.


TKW February 25, 2013 at 11:54 am

Quack! And thank you.


Heather February 24, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Hmmmmm. Blog post + FB posts and me thinks kitchy has about got enough in the *swear jar* to go on a rather lavish vaca ;)
You are far from odd. We go all out for Chinese New Year too. I think the boys were appalled that we weren’t ordering. Keegan loves breaded chicken like nothing else! But they survived and the year of the Snake has officially begun in this house. Hope it’s a great year in your home!


TKW February 25, 2013 at 11:55 am

If the swear jar could smirk, it would.


leslie February 25, 2013 at 6:08 am

Were twins…I’m not normal either!


TKW February 25, 2013 at 11:55 am


Normal is boring, right? Right?


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes February 25, 2013 at 6:14 am

And here I was wondering if I could pull togheter an asian style dinner for my kids and husband and what I would serve. You dropped the answer right into my drooling mouth.


TKW February 25, 2013 at 11:56 am


These meatballs are so lightly spiced that even kids will eat them. Well, if they can get over the weirdo look of the rice on the outside…


Annette February 25, 2013 at 9:12 am

Yum! What did you use for the “meat loaf mix”?


TKW February 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

You can get it at any meat counter in a grocery store. It’s usually a beef/pork/veal mix.


Donna February 25, 2013 at 10:58 am

You’re not normal? Hey, you’re as normal as I am. Ummmm… yeah and the meatballs look good, too.


TKW February 25, 2013 at 11:58 am

Hey there, fellow duck! :)


Bonnie February 25, 2013 at 11:39 am

My idea is celebrating New Year’s Eve is being in bed sound asleep and hoping that revelers find all of their fireworks to be duds! These meatballs might encourage me to celebrate the Chinese New Year though!!



Velva February 25, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Happy Chinese New Year!!!


Arnebya February 26, 2013 at 7:37 am

These meatballs interest me mainly because I don’t have *swear jar* else to cook for dinner. I have come to the end of all of the turkey, fish, and chicken and veggie nights aren’t necessarily a hit with anyone but me.

Also, odd women unite! (Do we get to wear special odd decoder rings?)


Jenna February 26, 2013 at 9:44 am

These meatballs sound good enough to be worth the finnicky trouble. And by the way, happy 44th! Don’t be too depressed about it, because as I’m telling myself with 30 being imminent (end of May), the alternative to turning 30 is being dead. And I much prefer to turn 30. ;)


Contemporary Troubadour February 26, 2013 at 5:59 pm

We totally missed Chinese New Year this year because we were one day postpartum. I have noodles in the fridge begging to be fried in something savory-good. CNY redux sounds like an excellent idea … even if we do it one dish at a time for the next month.


elizabeth February 26, 2013 at 8:29 pm

It’s better to be an odd duck than a typical chicken. (Also? Duck is SO much tastier.) I mean, I make dishes to celebrate/mourn soccer matches that are over by the time I get home from work (like today, when I had to make a tortilla to comfort me on the horrible results of El Clasico).

Count me as someone who will trust a recipe and make it in large quantities for a party without doing a test-drive. I’m better about this now but I’ve been guilty of it in the past. Here’s to a healthy Year of the Snake Redux!


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