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 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.