Western food. I have a love-hate relationship with this word. On the one hand, you can lump together anything that isn’t Asian.
Here in China, “Western food” can be tacos, spaghetti, pizza, or French wine. It’s all the same to them.
But I am “Western.” I have lived in Europe. My husband is Mexican (yes, I know you probably already know this). I know what people eat in the “Western” world, and I know that Italians would never eat the same pasta that we would eat in the Midwest. I know that French baguette is difficult to reproduce in the US, in part, because of things like the grass the cows chew and the where the wheat grows and such. And don’t get me started on tacos. Not burritos or fajitas or enchiladas.
So “Western” is vaguely insulting to the food you end up eating, is it not? But hey, guess what? We do the same thing. Feeling like “Asian” food tonight? Throw in some chopped ginger and garlic, a splash of soy and a drizzle of honey seem to make everything “Asian”. Especially if it’s got sesame seeds.
And I suppose there is an upside to Western. Take, for example, these meatballs. No self-respecting Italian man would ever put juicy meat patties, balls or whatnot on to his plate of spaghetti. It is not Italian. But most Americans might give in to temptation at an Italian restaurant and order this typical American dish, right? I mean, I’m kind of addicted to tomato sauce…and don’t get me wrong. It an Italian wants to give me pasta al dente and only just kiss the pasta with a light tomato sauce and whatever might be typical in his region…I am definitely down for that. But there are other days, where I want tomato more than pasta. And hey, a little meatball never did anyone any harm, did it?
But then, add MUSHROOMS to it? And I may just get little angry nonnas rushing at me with meatballs in one hand and Bolognese in the other ready to duke it out. MUSHROOMS in a meatball? Guys, I’m not trying to start a revolution.
So, I’m going to thank my new Chinese friends. They have got us covered. Instead of arguing and telling people their cuisine isn’t authentic or good, they’ll just call it “Western.” And we’re good to go.
Note: I am not giving you my sauce recipe. It’s not super secret or anything, but China has thrown my most trustworthy, back pocket recipes into disarray. I can’t find balsamic vinegar. I use balsamic vinegar in my tomato sauces. So just go with your favorite recipe. This is for the meatball, the whole meatball, and nothing but the meatball.
- 1 pound ground sausage meat (appx. 2 cups)
- 2 cups chopped mushrooms (I used Shiitake)
- 1 egg
- ⅔ cup oatmeal
- 3 teaspoons oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon fennel
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Optional: pinch of cayenne
- Oil for frying pan
- Serving suggestion: homemade/canned tomato sauce+spaghetti+parmesan flakes, fresh basil, etc.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix by hand until everything comes together. Heat the pan with about 1 tablespoon of oil on medium. And shape the meat a little smaller than a golf ball. Place the meatballs in the pan. Brown for 2-2 ½ minutes on each “side.” You should be able to do this on about 3 “sides.”
- If not using sauce, add a little water and lower the heat. Cook for about 10 more minutes, or until no longer pink in the middle.
- If using tomato sauce, pour into the frying pan and simmer for about 10 more minutes, or until no longer pink in the middle.
- During this time, prepare your spaghetti if desired.
- Serve warm.