Jin lung are a local type of meatball, rich in fresh herbs and often yellow in colour from the addition of dried turmeric powder. They’re most commonly made from pork, but beef and fish versions can be found on occasion. In Mae Hong Son’s morning market they’re sold in Indian-style pots in a generous amount of the yellow cooking oil, and when ordered, two or four (the serving sizes here are really small) are bagged up with a drizzle of the oil and some deep-fried crispy garlic.
The source of today’s recipe, Khun Yai, although a resident of Mae Hong Son for longer than most of us have been alive, is originally from Aythaya, and adds a couple central Thai touches to this dish. ‘The people here don’t put Kaffir lime leaf in jin lung,’ she explained, ‘but I like it!’ She’s also partial to shrimp paste (the locals tend to use dried soybeans), and explained that in the old days the dish was traditionally served with sticky rice boasting a bright yellow hue from the addition of turmeric, and rich and oily from the addition of coconut milk. Unfortunately few people eat it this way any more, and according to my landlord, the remaining person in the town’s morning market to make jin lung and the rice, stopped making both last week.
Jin Lung (Shan-style meatballs)
Small dried chilies, 10
Salt, 1 tsp
Shallots, sliced, 6
Lemongrass, white section sliced thinly, 2 stalks
Garlic, peeled, 12 small cloves
Coriander seed, 1 Tbsp
Shrimp paste, 1 Tbsp
Ground pork, 500g
Dried turmeric, 1 Tbsp
Tomato, seeded and sliced thinly, 3
Kaffir lime leaf, sliced thinly, 2
Oil for deep-frying
Deep-fried crispy garlic
Make chili paste by grinding chilies and salt in a mortar and pestle. Add coriander seed, lemongrass, shallots and garlic. Grind until you have a fine paste:
Add pork, turmeric and tomatoes to chili paste mixture. Work finely using mortar and pestle, pounding to blend mixture thoroughly and tenderize pork:
The mixture should have fine, silky texture and ingredients should be thoroughly amalgamated. When you have reached this texture, add the eggs, stirring with a spoon to combine thoroughly.
Heat a generous amount of oil in a wok over medium heat. Form one small ball and test:
If the oil is too hot the jin lung will cook on the outside but will still be raw inside. Deep-fry at a low heat until jin lung are cooked inside, and golden outside — this should take a few minutes. Serve drizzled with a bit of the oil and some deep-fried crispy garlic, with hot rice.