A quick and easy Asian-inspired mid-week meal
Meatballs allow you to incorporate plenty of flavour into your cooking in a flash. Good quality pork and fresh spices will ensure fabulous results.
You could use these Asian-flavoured balls as canapés on cocktail sticks and just dip them into the sauce, but I love them as a main meal, accompanied by plenty of lovely seasonal greens from the Market and a fragrant bowl of jasmine rice. The pork can very easily be substituted with beef, if you’d prefer.
For the meatballs:
450g minced pork, not too lean or the meatballs will seem dry
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 medium hot red chilli, finely sliced
Zest of ½ lime
1 egg white
A large pinch of salt
A grind of black pepper
1-2 tsp Chinese five spice
2 tbsp ground nut oil
Mint to garnish
For the sauce:
1 clove of garlic, crushed
4 tbsp fish sauce (or soy sauce will do)
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp ground palm sugar or light muscovado sugar
1-2 hot chillies, sliced or diced very finely
Put the pork, spring onions, garlic, ginger and chilli into a large mixing bowl. Mix up the egg white with a fork in a smaller bowl, then tip in with the meat. Season with salt and pepper and mix everything together really well.
Now for a test run. Shape up a tiny disc of mixture like a mini-burger and fry this in a large pan with the oil. Allow to cool, then taste. Does the meatball need any more chilli, salt or pepper?
Now you’re ready to roll. Wet hands will stop the mixture from sticking, so have a bowl of water next to you. Aim to make about 20 walnut-sized balls. Sprinkle the balls with the Chinese five spice—the flavours will sing as they toast around the outside of the balls.
If you have time, chill the meatballs for 20 minutes before you cook them (they will hold together better), otherwise just treat them carefully as they fry.
Fry the balls in two batches, giving them plenty of room to brown rather than steam. They will take about 5 minutes.
For the sauce, just stir all the ingredients together in a bowl, adding the chilli a tiny bit at a time. Taste—the sauce should be a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty and hot.
Serve with stir fried shredded greens—rainbow chard works well—and simple white rice or noodles. Tip over the zippy sauce and garnish with roughly chopped mint.
ALTERNATIVE: For a lighter option use a tiered steamer and steam your meatballs and veg. If you’re really short on time, leave out the egg white and just fry the meat mixture without shaping. Sprinkle the meat over a gem lettuce salad with chopped roasted peanuts, fresh coriander and dress with the sauce.