No oliebollen and no fireworks this year. So how did I celebrate New Year’s Eve in a Dutch way in Beijing? Gehaktballen were the answer.
The idea of making Dutch meatballs hit on me, after I witnessed my poor French flat mate suffer from severe Christmas homesickness in this no-Xmas-ambience smoggy metropolis. To cheer him up, I planned to hold a six person Dutch dinner on New Year’s Eve. To make it easy I chose gehaktballen as the main course. But with no Dutch supermarket in Beijing, I was struggling even to make such an easy dish.
Challenge One - No gehaktballen-cooking videoclips in China?
So I had to first log in VPN to embrace YouTube at a low network speed. I flicked through a few how–to-make-meatballs clips, memorized the recipe and then cycled to the supermarket for ingredients.
Challenge Two – No AH-Basic paneermeel?
No ready breadcrumbs? No problem. Thanks to my three-year culinary training in Wageningen, I easily found the even better substitutes: the milk and whole-wheat bread.
Challenge Three – No half-beef-half-pork?
‘Mixed minced beef and pork? Are you kidding me?’ The boss at the closest butcher’s shop cast me a puzzled look. After a long explanation, I persuaded him to grind me 1 kilogram half-beef half-pork. I guess he still thinks I’m a weirdo.
Challenge Four – Butter crisis
I admit it’s my fault: I ran out of time to buy it. So I baked with peanut oil instead. It turned out to be a decent backup. Such a nice way to illustrate that there’s always an alternative.
Fortunately all my hard work and efforts paid off. All the guests were satisfied. ‘Your food is reminiscent of my days in Vlissingen.’ I was so flattered by the thumbs-up of Jennifer, one of the guests who had stayed in the Netherlands for 6 years. I was really as pleased as punch. Not only because of the instant success of the meatballs but also because I managed a stress-free dinner party in Beijing. It made me feel good to turn my small shelter into a snuggery in this chilly city. Happy New Year!