Any foreigner who has lived long enough in Shanghai must know the famous Nepali Kitchen cheese balls. Nepali Kitchen was hands down one of our favorite restaurants in Shanghai. Over the years, we had countless lunches and dinners at this restaurant. The food there was great but what really made people come back was the cheese balls. It seems odd but they inexplicably had something special and very addictive.
It’s been more than two years since we left Shanghai and man. . . we miss those cheese balls. I don’t know if it’s an authentic Nepali dish but I could not find any recipes or even the slightest information about them, all we had was glimpses of far memories. Lately, we’ve been determined to solve the mystery. What we were looking for was something smooth that holds together, not the typical gooey cheese. And I think we found something pretty close to what we had in mind. Of course, the result is not a perfect replica of the Nepali Kitchen dish, but it’s pretty close, and more importantly it’s tasty!
To go with the cheese balls, I also made a simple yet refreshing tomato dipping sauce. I used Marjoram to give it more flavor but feel free to use any herb you like. Paired with the cheese balls, they make a perfect starter!
Nico’s wine pairing: I would go with a simple Chardonnay or Aligoté from Burgundy, nothing crazy: Bourgogne Blanc, Rully or Bouzeron would be perfect.
Potato Cheese Balls & Marjoram Tomato Dip
Yields a dozen
- 3 cups mozzarella (or soft and mild) cheese, finely grated
- 2 medium potatoes (for 1/3 cup mashed potatoes)
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- vegetable oil
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes (canned)
- 1 bunch marjoram
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt and pepper
- For the sauce, in a small sauce pan, heat up olive oil on medium high heat. Add marjoram and fry until dark. Remove fried marjoram and add crushed tomatoes and sugar. Cook for 1 minute and remove from heat. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Emulsify with a hand mixer (the color should go from bright red to pale red orange).
- In a small pot, add potatoes, cover with water and bring to a boil. Check for doneness after about 5 minutes by inserting a knife. It should come out easily. Drain and set aside to cool down.
- Peel the skin off the potatoes and pass through a ricer to get finely mashed potatoes. If you don't have a ricer, use a sieve and a spoon, it takes longer but the result is ultra smooth.
- In a large mixing bowl, add 1/3 cup of the mashed potatoes, cheese, flour, egg, garlic powder, garam masala and salt. Using your hand, mix all ingredients until well combined. It should be slightly sticky but hold its shape well.
- Using about 2 tbsp of the cheese potato mixture, gently press and roll in your hand to form balls. Coat in panko bread crumbs.
- Heat vegetable oil in a pot (enough to cover the balls). When it reaches 350F, add cheese balls, few at a time, and fry until golden for about 2-3 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.