Vietnamese-Inspired Meatballs

14 Mar

I’ve made these Vietnamese-inspired meatballs three times, and they’ve been satisfying in a lettuce wrap with piles of fresh herbs, on a bowl of brown rice with a spicy cucumber salad and steamed vegetables, or simmered in poultry stock from the freezer (a good way to use leftover cooked meatballs the next day…):

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I was inspired by this NYTimes Cooking recipe but have tweaked it each time I make them, my current version is:

For a large recipe (~44 mid-size meatballs, about 6 servings):

Make a paste of:

  • 1.5 cups breadcrumbs
  • 0.5 cup yogurt (or milk)
  • A little water if needed to really wet the breadcrumbs

Then add:

  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • ~6 Tbsp fresh ginger (a lot! I grated/microplaned half of it, and cut half of it into thin matchsticks for some texture and gingery bites)
  • 1.5 – 2 Tbsp good fish sauce (I used Red Boat 40°N)
  • Cilantro
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • Salt + pepper to taste
  • When using ground turkey rather than ground pork I also added ~1 Tbsp sesame oil (or other oil) on the theory it could use a bit more fat

Then lightly mix in ground meat, just barely combining while trying to keep the mixture uncompressed and loose:

  • 2.5 lbs ground turkey thigh, or ground pork

Form this into meatballs (~44 medium-size ones), still trying to avoid compressing them, lay them out on an oiled tray, and bake at 425 for ~15-25 minutes depending on the size of meatball. I used a thermometer to check doneness– nominally aiming for 165F, but one time I cooked turkey meatballs to an internal temp of 180-185 and they were still moist and delicious. Overall, this made juicy, fluffy meatballs with a ginger kick and a lot of umami aroma from the fish sauce.

When served in a lettuce wrap or rice bowl, they were good with a nuoc cham sauce of lime juice, fish sauce, chopped fresh chiles, and a little sugar. Or they made a great soup just simmered in a smoky turkey broth (we made 8 quarts of this from the carcass of the turkey we smoked over Thanksgiving) with chopped greens stirred in a few minutes before serving.

 

 

 

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