This is a winning recipe. I found this in a library book and copied it years ago, but have completely forgotten the title and the author. I did find the exact recipe online, but the poster did not attribute the recipe to the cookbook author.
These were outstanding in both their flavor and texture, and the keys to success are using really finely-ground pork and being sure to make the sauce that goes over the meatballs when cooked. Of course, they’d be better if grilled, but broiling them in a hot oven worked quite well.
Know ahead of time that these call for the mixed meat and spices to chill for 2-3 hours before forming and cooking, so please plan ahead for maximum flavor!
What you’ll need:
For the meatballs:
- 2t peanut or sesame oil (sesame oil adds a nice fragrance)
- 4 shallots, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb ground pork (a finer grind will result in very tender meatballs)
- *2T nuoc mam
- 2t Vietnamese five-spice powder (not Chinese, they are different)
- 2t sugar
- 2 cups bread crumbs or 2T potato or corn starch (I used starch)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 bunch of cilantro, stemmed (optional)
For the sauce:
- 2t peanut oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 red Thai chili, seeded and minced
- 2T roasted peanuts, finely chopped
- *1T nuoc mam
- 2T rice vinegar
- 2T hoisin sauce
- 0.25 cups coconut milk
- 0.5 cups water
- 1-2t sugar
*To make a quick version of nuoc mam, mix these ingredients. Don’t worry about leftovers, it’s so good that you’ll find plenty of uses for it. Or just halve the recipe.
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup lime juice or vinegar
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
- 2 finely chopped small red chilies
What to do:
First, make the sweet-and-sour peanut sauce. Heat the oil over medium heat in a small wok or heavy pan, then stir in the chili and sauté for a couple of minutes. Now add the peanuts and garlic, stirring for a couple more minutes. Be really careful that the garlic doesn’t burn, otherwise you’ll need to start over with new garlic. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the sugar. Boil the mixture for minute. Stir in the sugar, and adjust sugar and salt, to taste. Set aside to cool.
Now, it’s time to make the meatballs. Heat the oil over medium heat in a wok or small frypan. Add the shallots and sauté them until they begin to brown a bit. Now add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic just starts to take on some color. Immediately remove from heat so the garlic doesn’t burn. Set aside to cool.
Add the pork to a large bowl and stir in the cooked and cooled shallots and garlic. Now add the nuoc mam, five-spice powder and sugar. Season well with pepper, and add a bit of salt, if you want, but you shouldn’t need it. Using your hands, knead the mixture until just combined. Over-kneading will result in tough meatballs. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
About 30 minutes before cooking, begin soaking 8 wooden skewers. With about 15 minutes of skewer-soaking left, heat up your oven or grill and begin forming the meatballs. Remove the ground pork from the refrigerator and add the starch or breadcrumbs. Knead until the binder is well distributed throughout the pork.
With wetted or gloved hands, roll 20 equal-size meatballs, then thread them onto your soaked skewers.
Cook with whatever method you’re using, until the meatballs are cooked through and 165 degrees inside. Quickly reheat the sweet-and-sour peanut sauce you had set aside.
Arrange the meatballs on a platter with a bed of cilantro, or chop the cilantro and use as a garnish. Spoon the sauce over the meatballs and serve hot.