Category: Asian Recipes
Meatballs. Praise to the gods of comfort food. Add in a few Asian spices with a hint of Eastern flair and you’ve got a double dose of heaven.
We have a few ideas for Asian pork meatballs. Quick and easy to make, using some store cupboard short cuts. And super tasty.
But first, a few meatball basics.
How to make meatballs
From Italy to China, through Sweden and over to Vietnam, most countries of the world have a traditional meatball recipe. A way of stretching meat, they are relatively quick, easy and cost effective to make. Some use egg, some use breadcrumbs, and many use both. Many cover them in sauce whilst others dip them. Some like them completely naked. Others come in the guise of meatloaf or they are often impaled on a stick. All of them spring from one basic recipe. One simple technique.
One thing all these nations can agree on is that a good meatball is soft and tender. If you can arrange for it to be a little juicy in the middle too, then its all good in the hood.
Meatballs are softer when made with lamb and beef, due to a high proportion of fat and a more open textured flesh. Turkey and chicken are leaner and more compact so tend to dry out easily. Pork, if you use a fattier cut like shoulder or belly is ideal. Most of us use shop bought mince to make our meatballs, and standard pork mince sits at around 10 to 20 percent fat. This makes for a rich, soft meatball that takes on Asian flavours particularly well.
What makes meatballs stick together?
Strictly speaking you don’t need a binder as meat, when mixed really well, will stick to itself. The best way to achieve this is by mixing in a food processor to break down the meat fibres. Turkish kofte, for example is made in this way. The usual binder is egg; an egg yolk in your meatball mix will act as a binder and add extra richness.
Breadcrumbs are more of a filler than a binder. They add texture to the meat, and absorb fat, juices and flavour. Often soaked in milk beforehand, breadcrumbs do make a meatball softer and round out the flavours. You can leave them out, but take care not to overcook your meatballs.
A meatball can be as simple as ground meat mixed together with salt and pepper, shaped into balls and cooked. Spices and herbs may be added. As may the aforementioned egg and crumb. They are best mixed gently by hand so as not to overwork the mixture which will make it tough. Pork is quite robust and has a higher fat content so there is a more of a margin for error.
How to cook meatballs
Meatballs can be fried, or baked, or both. They can be cooked and served without sauce or with a dipping sauce. Frying seems to make for a softer meatball, with a browned crust and a juicy tender middle. They can also be finished in a sauce, or a glaze, either in a pan or in the oven.
The best way to cook meatballs is to fry them. Stick to balls of about 1 inch diameter, which is roughly a generous tablespoon of mix. Shallow fry them in a little oil for about 15 minutes, turning regularly. They are ready when the meat is no longer pink in the middle and the juices run clear. They should still feel soft to the touch. If you want to bake the meatballs they will take about 25 minutes at 180C.
If you want to add a glaze, such as teriyaki sauce, add a few tablespoons to the frying pan with the meatballs and cook over a moderately high heat until it has reduced. To finish them in a sauce, fry them for about 10 minutes and before they are completely cooked drop them into a saucepan with the sauce. Heat through for a further 5 minutes or until fully cooked. This keeps the meatballs nice and soft.
If you want to bake meatballs in a sauce in the oven we recommend browning them first. You can then bake them in the sauce at 180C for about 25 minutes or until fully cooked.
Basic meatball recipe
Serves 4 500g minced pork (at least 10% fat) 50g fresh, soft breadcrumbs 3 tbsp milk 1 egg yolk 1/4 tsp salt Freshly ground black pepper
Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk for a few minutes.
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, including the wet breadcrumbs, and knead together with your hands until thoroughly mixed.
Divide the mixture into tablespoons and roll into balls. Dipping your hands in water occasionally will help to prevent the mixture sticking.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
Add the meatballs and fry gently for about 15 minutes, turning regularly. You may need to do this in batches as they need at least 2 inches space between them.
Serve with a simple dip such as sweet chilli sauce.
Asian pork meatballs with sweet and sour
Try finishing off the basic meatball mix with a generous glaze of sweet and sour sauce.
Add a few teaspoons of our South East Asian spice blend to your meatball mix, with a handful of chopped fresh coriander. Take it one step further and finish in a fragrant sauce of red curry paste and a can of coconut milk.
Try using 1 tsp of grated ginger, 1/2 cup chopped spring onions, and 3 tbsp of soy sauce in your mix. After browning in the frying pan, cover and turn the heat low. Let them steam through for about 10 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.
Vietnamese pork meatballs
Mix in a tablespoon of fresh lime juice, a tablespoon of fish sauce, and plenty of chopped fresh coriander and mint. Serve in lettuce wraps, or even in baguette with lots of crisp vegetables as a twist on the classic Banh Mi.
Hopefully you are inspired to try some different styles of Asian pork meatballs. Why not see what you can come up with using our organic Asian sauces and spices? There is also wholesale organic food at our online store.
Mix up a batch of this super easy South East Asian spice blend and keep it in the cupboard for fragrant food in a hurry.
The cuisines of South East Asia are many and varied, encompassing the foods of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Whilst each has its own regional dishes with distinct flavours, and we do like to encourage authenticity, there are times when you want just an idea of a cuisine. An family of flavours that will scratch the itch for something fragrant.
South East Asian herbs and spices
Whilst spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and coriander seed are found in all Asian cuisines, the foods of South East Asia have a strong emphasis on fresh aromatic components. Leafy green herbs such as mint, basil and fresh coriander are used in abundance. Paired with fragrant galangal, lemongrass, or lime leaf, they are usually joined by searingly hot chillies and often rounded out by creamy cooling coconut. Chances are if you have a craving for food that is comforting but not stodgy, these are the flavours you are looking for.
South East Asian spice blend ingredients
The ingredients below are usually used fresh, and ground into a paste. Surprisingly, when freeze dried and ground into powder, they retain much of their aromatic freshness. Native cooks are quite happy to use them. Having such ingredients to hand in the storecupboard means that you have the flavours of the world at your fingertips.
Making your own blend of South East Asian spices makes reaching into the cupboard even easier.
Turmeric is a particular kind of root known as a rhizome, belonging to the ginger family, with deep orange flesh. More familiar in its powder form, turmeric has gained in popularity in recent years because of its health credentials. Hugely versatile, turmeric is an amalgamating spice that brings other spices together. Hence its use as a base in many spice blends. It has a warm earthy flavour and adds a yellow colour to food.
Turmeric pairs particularly well with other elements that fit the South East Asian flavour profile.
Also a root related to ginger, galangal has firmer paler flesh than fibrous yellow ginger. Not interchangeable, ginger and galangal have very different flavours that do complement each other well. Galangal is stronger and sharper than ginger, with a fresher more citrussy flavour.
Ginger is the most familiar of our trio of fragrant rhizomes, with a pale yellow flesh that is slightly sweeter than galangal and a pungent peppery finish.
Lemongrass grows in tight bulb-like stems with a fresh citrussy flavour. Instantly recognisable as lemongrass, the flavours are more herbal, slightly sweeter, and less acidic.
Kaffir lime leaf
Not related to the familiar green citrus fruit, kaffir lime leaves are used extensively in South East Asian cuisines. They have a strong citrus flavour but none of the acidity of lime.
South East Asian spice blend recipe
7 teaspoons Kaffir lime leaf powder
7 teaspoons lemongrass powder
5 teaspoons turmeric powder
3 teaspoons ginger powder
2 teaspoons galangal powder
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
- Mix together and store in an airtight container away from light.
- Add a teaspoon or two to taste, to stir fries and curries.
To round out the flavours of your spice blend, use alongside garlic, Thai chili paste, and coconut milk/cream. A good handful of fresh coriander will finish any dish nicely. Chopped fresh mint or basil
Asian greens are quick and easy to cook, super good for you, and take on all those vibrant, Asian flavours really well.
If you feel like some light and healthy food that still packs a punch in the flavour department, then getting to grips with Asian greens is a good place to start. From soft and tender bok choy in fragrant noodle soup, to the garlic tones of Chinese chives in your chicken dishes, you are sure to discover your new favourite thing.
Top 5 Asian greens
There are many different types of Asian greens available at Asian grocers, but the ones below are the most widely accessible and some may be found at the supermarket or greengrocer. Whilst they are largely related and play very similar roles, each is unique and brings a different dimension to your dish.
Also known as pak choi, bok choy is a member of the brassica family, related to broccoli and cabbage. It has the iron rich green flavour of spinach or kale and is sold when small, young and tender as well as larger, mature, and more fibrous. The smaller bok choy can be cut into halves or quarters before cooking. When bigger, the stem is best cooked separately from the leaf. Not typically eaten raw, bok choy is best for stir frying or braising.
Add halved bok choy to fragrant noodle broth for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender
Chinese broccoli is very similar to the long stemmed varieties of broccoli such as purple sprouting or Tenderstem. Drop into boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes until a knife inserted into the stem has just a little resistance. You could then simply dress it and serve, or stir fry for a minute with some garlic and ginger.
Blanch in salted water for 3 minutes and stir fry with a few tablespoons of our organic black pepper sauce for a fragrant, spicy side dish.
Somewhere between a lettuce and a cabbage, Chinese leaf is also a member of the brassica family. Used both cooked and raw, it has a sweet nutty flavour and remains surprisingly crisp when cooked. Blanched in stock before stir frying, Chinese leaf soaks up all the flavour of the stock but without going soggy.
Use as a crunchy fresh base for this Thai Beef Salad.
Choi sum is somewhere between bok choy and Chinese broccoli. It has the soft leaves of bok choy, with long tender stems. The flavour is mild and the texture like spinach. Eaten cooked, it can chopped and stir fried. or added to broth for a few minutes before serving.
Stir fry with strips of fresh ginger and season with a splash of Japanese soy sauce.
Related to choi sum, mustard greens are shaped like a romaine lettuce but has frilly edges like kale. You can use mustard greens pretty much like kale. Slice or shred and drop into fragrant soup, or blanch in boiling water for a few minutes before stir frying.
Blanch or stir fry until tender and drizzle with dressing made from 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp rice vinegar, and 1 tsp sugar. You could add a dash of chili sauce to turn up the heat.
Some useful additions to Asian greens
Whilst not really greens, these green vegetables can add colour, texture and flavour to your Asian food and offer more ways of bringing a bit of green to your plate.
Found in Asian grocery stores, these are long green beans. Similar to french beans (aka green beans), they can be cooked in the same way. Drop into a pan of boiling salted water and blanch for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender crisp. Serve simply tossed in soy sauce, or stir fry with aromatics such as ginger or chili. Conversely, if you find snake beans in a recipe, you can switch them out for green beans.
Sugar snap peas and mangetout
Essentially varieties of peas that are eaten with the pod, sugar snap peas and mangetout are great for stir fries as they cook so quickly whilst retaining their crunch. They have a lovely sweet flavour, with a slightly bitter edge of green.
Chinese chives and spring onions
Chinese chives are more robust than your average chive, and have a strong flavour of garlic and leek. Used as an ingredient rather than a herb, they will stand up to heat and can be blanched for a few minutes before adding to a stir fry. Often served alone simply as a vegetable, but also tossed liberally into scrambled eggs. You could add Chinese chives as a milder alternative to garlic.
Pork belly. One of the best things to eat. Ever. And sticky pork belly, Chinese style, reigns supreme. Deeply savoury? Tick. Fragrant with sweet spices? Hell yeah. Sinfully salty? Uh-huh.
Soft enough to use as a pillow, with fat that melts away like clouds, well cooked pork belly is simply sheer joy.
Did we mention sticky?
Chinese sticky pork belly
Sticky pork belly is not difficult to make. As with most things the devil is in the detail. You will need thick cut strips of belly pork, at least an inch thick all round, with plenty of creamy white fat and soft pink meat. The leaner part of the belly, with darker meat and less fat can dry out easily and be a bit chewy. Cooked on the stove top, the pan you use is important. You need a heavy bottomed pan that won’t burn or weld the meat to the bottom. In other words, a good quality pan. A cast iron casserole is ideal.
The recipe calls for 1kg meat. This is a lot, but it does shrink and you will want plenty. Leftovers can be used in Singapore noodles. If they get that far. Don’t be put off by the dark colour, it is just the soy sauce and the dark brown sugar that give the dish a deep molasses flavour. Instead of using black pepper, you could try adding a tablespoon of our black pepper sauce for a deeper flavour.
We served ours with plain white rice, Asian greens, and some quick pickles.
Recipe for sticky pork belly
Servings - 4 Ingredients 1kg thick pork belly strips, cut in 2 inch pieces 1 litre water 2 inches fresh ginger, sliced 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed 4 bay leaves 3 star anise 1 cinnamon stick 4 spring onions, cut in half For the sauce 1 tsp vegetable oil 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 2 tbsp honey 4 tablespoons soy sauce 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar 1 tsp black pepper For the garnish Spring onion, chopped Toasted sesame seeds
- Bring the water to the boil in a large pot with the ginger, garlic, spring onions, and aromatics.
- Once boiling, add the pork, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Drain in a colander, keeping 1 cup of the cooking water.
- Put the pan back on the heat, make sure it is dry, and add the oil.
- Add the drained ingredients back to the pan, turn the heat to medium high, and let the pork brown. Stir occasionally. It will stick to the pot, don’t worry. Let it brown, and keep releasing it with a wooden spoon. This stage is really important, you need all that caramelisation on the meat, and the fat to render down. Don’t rush, just keep going until the meat is browned all over. Give it about 20 minutes.
- When the meat is nicely browned, stir in the sugar, honey, vinegar, soy and black pepper. Turn the heat to low.
- When the sugar has dissolved, add the reserved cooking liquid.
- Put the lid on and simmer for about 45 minutes.
- The liquid should have reduced to a glaze. If not, continue cooking with the lid off until it looks thick and sticky.
- Leave to stand in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.
- Remove the aromatics to serve, and garnish with sesame and spring onion.
There are a few things that define a great Singapore noodle recipe. One is curry paste or powder. That’s the kicker. Then there is the addition of eggs. More of a scrambled scenario than a sliced omelette.
And then there is the question of leftovers. Yes, Singapore noodles are great for throwing the contents of your fridge at, but there are a few ground rules. The meat should really be pork. And preferably a bit sweet/salty. And there should be prawns. So you have that pork and prawn combo thing going on.
How to make Singapore noodles
Versions of Singapore noodle recipes abound. Strictly speaking it is more of way of using up your leftovers than a strict recipe, so perhaps the best way forwards is to get the detail right. Stir frying is all about fast cooking over a high high heat. That somehow manages to result in deep deep flavour, whilst keeping the integral personality of the ingredients intact. In terms of taste and texture.
It is very very clever and completely underestimated.
Essentially, Singapore noodles are made of the following components…
Usually made with rice noodles, but they can be (especially the fine ones) really hard to toss with the other ingredients and end up in a tangle. Use whichever noodles you prefer – cook and cool them before stir frying.
Use whatever you have to hand. Spring onion is good for flavour, and Asian vegetables such as bamboo or water chestnuts add great crunch. Add those that need the longest cooking time first.
Again, use whatever you like or need to use up. The prawn/pork combo works particularly well, especially leftover sticky pork belly.
Curry powder gives the classic Singapore noodle taste. Ginger, garlic and chili round it out with fresh aromatic heat.
Soy sauce added at the end brings the requisite salty element whilst coconut milk makes it a little creamier. Using the creamy part of tinned coconut milk makes for a thicker sauce that won’t overcook the noodles.
Keeping it old school with fresh coriander and a few slices of fresh red chili. Add an extra flourish with handful of peanuts or sesame seeds.
Singapore noodle recipe
Gather all of your ingredients together before cooking
- Serves 4
The noodles 225g noodles, cooked as per packet instructions, and cooled The vegetables 4 mushrooms, sliced 4 spring onions, sliced 100g frozen peas 6 water chestnuts, sliced 1/2 cup bamboo shoots The protein 100g cooked ham or leftover pork, shredded 100g cooked prawns 4 eggs, beaten The seasonings 1 tbsp vegetable oil 1 tbsp sesame oil 1 tsp ground white pepper 1 tbsp Madras curry powder 2 cloves garlic, chopped 1 inch ginger, grated 1 tsp red chili paste The sauce 1 tbsp coconut cream 2 tbsp soy sauce The garnish Fresh coriander, chopped Red chili, finely sliced
Heat the wok until smoking and add the oils.
Add the mushrooms and spring onions. Stir fry for 1 minute.
Add the rest of the veg and the meat.
Add the seasonings and stir fry for 1 minute.
Push the ingredients to the side of the wok, and pour the beaten egg into the space. Stir the eggs until cooked.
Add the noodles to the wok and stir everything to combine.
Add the sauce ingredients. Stir to combine.
Serve and garnish.
Full of the punchy flavours that characterise Thai food, this vibrant Thai beef salad recipe can be made in under 30 minutes. The steaks are quick and easy to cook and although there is a bit of vegetable prep to do the dish is more about assembly rather than preparation.
For best results use the freshest produce available and bring the meat to room temperature before cooking.
Recipe for Thai beef salad
2 x sirloin steaks of about 250g each 2 tsp sesame oil 1 tsp flaked sea salt 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1 tsp ground coriander For the salad 1/4 head Chinese leaf, shredded 1 cup beansprouts 1 carrot, shredded 8 radishes, sliced 1/2 shallot, finely sliced 4 spring onions, sliced 1/2 cucumber, peeled and shaved into ribbons 1 small bunch mint, chopped For the dressing 1 garlic clove, chopped 1 teaspoon chili paste 2 tsp brown sugar 3 tbsp fish sauce 3 limes, juice 1 tbsp sesame oil To garnish 75g salted peanuts, chopped 1/2 red chilli, finely sliced coriander leaves
1. Take the steaks from the fridge, remove any packaging, and pat dry with kitchen paper.
2. Rub the steaks with the oil and seasonings. Set aside to come up to room temperature whilst you make the salad.
3. Begin to layer your salad ingredients on a large platter.
4. Note the size and shape of the carrots. It takes a little more effort to julienne them rather than grate them, but the texture will make a big difference to the eating quality of your salad.
5. Finish the salad layers with the chopped mint.
6. Heat a grill pan or frying pan over a medium high heat. When really hot, add the steaks seasoning side down and sear for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
7. Remove the steaks from the pan and set aside to rest for a few minutes whilst you make the dressing.
8. Stir all of the dressing ingredients together.
9. Thinly slice the steaks.
10. Layer the sliced steaks onto the salad.
11. Finish with the dressing and a scatter of peanuts.
12. Serve the Thai beef salad whilst the steak is still hot.
Asian slaw. That seemingly catch all term for mayo-free coleslaw. An endless array of vibrant veggies with a sharp, often spicy, and most definitely not creamy dressing. Peanuts are usually involved, as are limes, fresh coriander leaf, and quite possibly, fiery red chillies.
An Asian-style slaw is a beautiful thing but before you throw at your plate all the vaguely East Asian ingredients you can find, stop and think for a moment. What am I actually creating here?
In this guide we take a look at the salads of South Asia to discover the many sides of Asian slaw.
Asian slaw and salads – a world of possibility
Sparked by an interest in the vibrant flavour profiles of South East Asia, and fuelled by the massive clean eating movement, the Asian slaw became a thing. A beautiful hybrid of nations to nestle against the naked burger and stuff into lettuce leaf wraps, this mayo-free slaw lost all of its identity overnight. There is nothing wrong with taking the flavours of the world and running with them. At all. But when you look at the origins of foods and their cultural identity you gain a whole new respect for ingredients. And open up a world of possibilities.
Yes, there are many similarities amongst the foods of South Asia. But there are also many differences, some more subtle than others. Most of the major cuisines of the region have some kind of crunchy raw salad served with a sharp dressing. Some of them play a supporting role in a vast cuisine, whilst others are regional defining dishes.
Raw salads in China
Owing to the yin and yang elements of Chinese food it is true that there are not many salads in the Chinese repertoire as most dishes are at least lightly cooked. There are however several single ingredient side dishes of raw vegetables dressed in something sharp. Delightfully simple, these elements bring a subtle surprise. A dash of vinegar on a little shredded carrot. Or a sweet and sour turnip pickle.
1 cucumber, cold from the fridge 1/2 tsp salt 1 tbsp rice vinegar 1 tbsp soy sauce 1 tsp sugar 1/2 tsp sesame oil optional 1 clove garlic, crushed 1 red chilli, chopped
Lay the whole cucumber on a chopping board and lightly bash with a rolling pin so it breaks open.
Now chop the cucumber into chunks.
Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine
The Asian slaw of Japan
If you have ever eaten tonkatsu you may be familiar with its usual companion of shredded cabbage. Served with all kinds of deep fried food in Japan, this is a simple yet deeply flavoursome version of slaw. Japanese food is all about integrity of ingredients and balance. It is as much about awakening of the senses as it is about nuance of flavour.
1/2 head of white cabbage, finely shredded 1 tbsp rice vinegar 1 tbsp Japanese soy sauce 1 tbsp mirin 1 tbsp vegetable oil 1 tsp sugar 1 tsp sesame oil
Toss ingredients together and serve.
This version of slaw from Korea is very similar to kimchi but it is not fermented. Hot and sour, the vegetables are tossed in a chilli sauce based dressing that is more like a sauce than a dressing in consistency.
1/4 head white cabbage, shredded 1 carrot, shredded 1 spring onion, finely sliced 10 mint leaves, shredded 1 tbsp chilli sauce 1 tbsp rice vinegar 1 tbsp soy sauce 1 tsp sugar 1 tsp lemon juice 1 tsp sesame oil 1 tsp garlic optional 1 tsp fish sauce garnish 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Toss all of the ingredients together.
Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
Salads in Thailand
Thai cuisine is full of fresh vibrant ingredients, often used raw. A famous Thai salad contains green papaya, an ingredient that is not that easy to source outside of South East Asia. The closest we come to a slaw is Thai beef salad, served as a main course, but you can riff on this for a smaller slaw-based side. Go for shredded carrots, ribbons of cucumber, sliced spring onions, beansprouts, shredded mint leaves and finely sliced red chillies. Dress with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. Top with chopped tomatoes.
Look out for our Thai beef salad recipe.
An Indonesian slaw
There is a fantastic salad in Indonesia made from shredded cabbage, cucumber, green beans, Thai basil, and beansprouts. All tossed in a deeply savoury sauce of peanuts, lime juice, sugar, galangal, chillies, garlic and fish sauce. If you can’t get Thai basil you could try adding a touch of our holy basil sauce to your dressing.
Asian slaw in Malaysia
In Malaysia, a similar slaw-like salad is popular to eat with plain rice. Toss shredded green mango, cucumber, beansprouts, bamboo shoots and peppers are in a dressing of dried shrimp, lime juice, sugar and chillies.
A popular Vietnamese salad, usually served as a main course, contains shredded chicken. Toss with plenty of crisp cabbage, carrots, onions, mint and coriander, and dress in a blend of lime juice, fish sauce, chillies, garlic and sugar. Top with roasted peanuts and crispy fried shallots.
We hope that this article inspires you to take your Asian slaw one step further, and maybe discover some of the nuances that separate the regional cuisines of South Asia. Take a look at our range of organic Asian groceries, or head over to our online Asian grocery store.