Vietnamese Meatballs

I do not know what came over me on this recipe, but I think I was thinking of the Thai fish balls I made some time ago. If you have never tried that recipe, I encourage you. Simple, and nothing but delicious and packed with flavor, I wanted to make something different for my wife the other night. See, my wife and I just approached our twelfth anniversary. I know, I know, twelve wonderful years of marriage, but unfortunately, with three kids, and having the our anniversary fall on a ‘school’ night, I wanted to do something different, and something light.  I know I could have been that guy and cooked her the typical anniversary meal that night, such as some seared scallops, or creamy risotto, but I was not going down that path, nor have I ever gone down that path (I think).  Those standard anniversary meals come during other unexpected times.

As I was driving home from my thirty minute commute from work, I turned the radio off, cleared my mind, and began thinking of something unusual to make, and that is when I decided to take some really great Asian flavors and turn them into a meatball, only to be eaten in a nice bed of lettuce.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients: [ Print this Recipe ]

  • 2 lbs of chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped, plus more leaves for serving
  • 3 tbsp fresh cilantro, plus sprigs for serving
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 head of boston lettuce, cleaned and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup of red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded, thinly sliced

Ingredients for Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 2 Thai bird chili peppers, lightly smashed
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 limes, juiced

Begin by adding the chicken, garlic, shallot, salt, chili flakes, and fish sauce to a food processor and pulse it a few times until everything is finely chopped and mixed. Fold in the mint and cilantro, and let this marinate for about 30 minutes.

While this marinates, make the dipping sauce. Combine everything into a small mixing bowl, and set aside. This stuff is great, trust me.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In the meantime, take the chicken mixture out, and begin making your meatballs. I tend to go with a golf ball sized meatball, and wetting your hands with a bit of water helps prevent the meat mixture from sticking to your hands. Add the sugar to a plate, then take the meatballs and lightly roll them in the sugar. Add the meatballs, one by one to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I’m a fan of parchment paper. Pop them in the oven for 20 minutes. The sugar will begin to caramelize the meatballs, and wow, are they good.

To serve, add the meatballs to a serving dish alongside the sauce. Have a plate of lettuce available, along with the thinly sliced red onion, cucumber, and the fresh mint and cilantro.

This is finger food, and hence why I wanted to bring that experience that night with my wife. Nothing like eating with your hands, there is just something about that.

Take a piece of Boston lettuce, add a meatball, a couple slices of red onion and cucumber, along with a sprig of cilantro and fresh mint leaves. Drizzle some of the sauce in the lettuce cup, fold, and get to it.

The result is nothing but a drive into flavor town. Hope you enjoy, and to my wife, I love you.

P.S. These would also be pretty fantastic on a sub sandwich of some sort, on the same lines of a banh mi.

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2 thoughts on “Vietnamese Meatballs

  1. Hi! I just started subscribing to your blog and love it! This recipe is one reason why… I love your posts and recipes and look forward to hopping on here every morning.
    Thank you for wonderful food thoughts.

    Patty Reed

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