One thing I constantly emphasize in my head and try to emote to my closest friends is how perfectly timed things happen in my life. Not sure if I’ve previously shared that two grandparents on both sides are Chinese. When I first met my maternal grandfather in Cuba, I about lost it upon first glance. The man was Chinese! I’ve known it all my life, but it had different meaning when I met him as an adult in 1998. I was stunned. I’m a watered down version of him. Nose, eyes, complexion, etc… But he was 100% Chinese, born and raised in Cuba. It then made sense why my dad refers to Mami as “China” — Chinese Woman… and all her neighborhood friends called her “chinita” — little Chinese girl. In fact, she has strong Asian features. My paternal grandmother is also of close Chinese descent. She looks equally Asian. However, and a big a fat however, I’ve never connected or identified with such a huge part of my blood line. When my grandfather passed away, I told myself I’d look further into my heritage and explore the culture, starting with the food.
Well, that just didn’t happen so much. When I started this blog, I also talked myself into exploring Asian and Chinese cuisine. Cuban and Latin naturally are the crux of my existence here. But I’ve remained highly curious, just waiting for that “aha!” moment that intrigued me enough.
And, that moment has happened. While in Melbourne just two weeks ago, I enjoyed a ridiculously great lunch spread of Schewuan food, taking us 3 hours to go finish. I had foods I’d never heard of. The most memorable was an ultra spicy meat dish which left my tongue feeling like I licked a battery. Another chef attending the private lunch and I turned our necks toward each other so fast in reaction to the odd and unique tingly experience. The owner was beckoned by our Chinese host whom explained the electrifying feeling was caused by red and green Schewuan peppers used in the seasoning. Hmmmm. I tried to parallel it to something I’ve eaten but nothing hit. I determined it wasn’t for me but totally tickled (no pun intended) it left a lasting impression. The more important thing from the afternoon, was the conversation centered around my ethnic background and connection to Chinese culture. It was clearer I was finally ready to tackle some research into my crazy mixed background and excited to look into Asian cuisine.
Now, now, now… I’m not shifting anything nor am I going to become this all-knowing foodie in Asian cuisine, but I am super curious and can’t wait to wet my feet!
Back to the timing of this. Just last month I came on board as a recipe developer and taste ambassador for Tabasco… the hot and spicy folks in Avery Island, Louisiana. Imagine how excited I was to say “yes!” to creating fabulous dishes with some special heat. I got a quick tasting of the new garlic variety and instantly knew I was going to love my work over the next year.
I trekked off to Australia with spicy notes in my head and ideas of what I’d be making first upon my return. And then Dainty’s (the fabulous Chinese restaurant in Melbourne I’ll soon chat about) happened.
I’ve been back from overseas just 5 days and waiting for me in my office was a generous box filled with Tabasco classic, new, and featured sauce flavors. The garlic was in there and I quickly bypassed it. Only because my eyes locked with the smoked red jalapeño Chipotle hot sauce. Mama mia! What a perfectly smoked sauce. More on that one later. As I panned the box, I finally came to the their new East Asian style Chile Sauce. Hallelujah! Spicy and Asian was about to find a super happy medium in my kitchen. I tasted it first and encountered a different kind of sauce. It wasn’t thin at all like most of their bottles; and more like a sweet and sour sauce consistency.
I played around with dash on mini cheddar cheese bites and knew it’d be a hit.
And so this morning, inspiration to make what’s probably my 2nd Asian dish ever on Flanboyant Eats, hit. I was in for something light, healthy, and not too complicated. It needed to speak of Asian flair but not screaming… after all, I’ve played with Asian food, but not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. So, making a lunch fare was extraordinary special and fun.
As I started to think of my simple dish, my friend Alicia surprised me early this morning and mentioned she wanted to hear all about Australia and Fiji. While asking away, she laid her eyes on the Tabasco bottles, saw me pulling things from the fridge and decided to stick around to help me figure it out. It worked out since she’s a Southern Belle and loves a spoonful or two of ultra hot sauce and offered her two cents.
This is what I ended up with… a delicious afternoon lunch made up of succulent meatballs perfectly seasoned with the East Asian chile sauce, seared in sesame oil. I kept the entire composition simple and quite rustic by making a slaw stir fry as the bed. I’m holy happy with it and already envision making a Cuban style meatloaf with the same chili sauce… only it’ll be a heavenly sauced dish. But for now, let’s enjoy this super easy, tasty and spicy meatball dish.
Say hello to my new little client… my friends over at Tabasco! It’s going to be quite caliente over here for some time!
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.
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ASIAN SPICED MEATBALLS
- 1 lb. turkey chuck meat
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 1/2 white onion, minced
- 1/2 green pepper, minced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup soda crackers, crumbled
- 6 Tbsp. Tabasco sweet and spicy sauce
- 1 heaping Tbsp. ginger paste
- 1.5 tsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
Add meat to large mixing bowl. Add can combine all ingredients except sesame oil. Gently blend with wooden spoon until well combined. Chill for 30 minutes. Using your hands, shape meat into 1.5″ round balls. Perfection is not necessary. In large non-stick skillet, heat sesame oil. Transfer meatballs into skillet once oil is hot. Reduce heat to low medium. Brown meatballs and allow to cook through, about 10-12 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer onto paper towel lined plate. While meatballs are cooking, make your preferred vegetable or starch dish.
To plate, place slaw on plate. Transfer meatballs on top of slaw. Drizzle each meatball with some fresh Tabasco sweet and spicy sauce.