When a dish is so good men are discussing it the next day out on the lake, it is definitely worth sharing. This really happened! My friend and partner in crime, if cooking great food and owning too many cookbooks is a crime, first discovered this recipe when she checked out the book, The Meatball Shop Cookbook, from the library. Like me, she loves meatballs and the flavors of Thailand so this preparation appealed to her palate. Apparently it appealed to her husband as well as he discussed it with his fishing buddies, one of which is my husband, and the story goes on from there. The beauty of this dish, besides bursting with many layers of flavor, is it can be served as a main course, a sandwich or an appetizer depending on how it is presented.
Growing up Italian I tended to think of meatballs as they were prepared by my grandmother but there are as many versions of meatballs as there are ethnicities out there. An example would be albondigas, meaning meatball in Spanish, it is the name of a popular Mexican and Spanish dish of spicy meatballs usually in a tomato sauce. Sopade Albondigas is a beef-broth soup with meatballs and chopped vegetables. There are Greek style made with lamb and served with a yogurt sauce and of course we cannot neglect Swedish meatballs, a classic of seventies entertaining, to name a few. Trust me, if you do your research you will find many more examples covering a variety of cultures and cuisines. The above mentioned cookbook even caters to vegetarians featuring a meatless meatball that, made with lentils, mushrooms and veggies, sounds really tasty.
OK, let’s get back to todays feature, Thai Meatballs. Here is how it goes down.
Recipe Makes 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch balls
2T olive oil
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. shrimp, shelled, deveined, and roughly chopped
2 large eggs
3/4 c fresh Thai or Italian basil, roughly chopped
3/4 c fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 c fresh mint, roughly chopped
2 Thai chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1/2 c bread crumbs
2 T lemongrass, finely minced or lemongrass paste
2 T fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice from 1 lime
2 T soy sauce
2 T sesame seeds
2 T Thai fish sauce
1 t rice wine vinegar
1 t soy sauce
2 large carrots, julienned or grated using large wholes of a box grater
10 fresh Thai or Italian basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 c fresh cilantro, including stems, roughly chopped
10 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 c roasted peanuts, chopped
1 t sesame seeds
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (F). Drizzle the olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and coat the entire surface. Set aside.
- Combine the pork, shrimp, eggs, basil, cilantro, mint, chiles, bread crumbs, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and fish sauce in a large mixing bowl and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
- Roll the mixture into golf ball size meatballs, about 1 1/2-inches, making sure they are packed so they will not fall apart but not too compact as they become too dense. Place the balls into the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching each other.
- Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted in the center should read 165 degrees.
- Allow them to cool in the baking dish for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, to make the garnish, place the vinegar, soy sauce, carrots, basil, cilantro, mint, peanuts, and sesame seeds in a bowl and toss to combine (can be made a day ahead but add the herbs right before serving).
- Spoon the garnish over the top of the meatballs and if desired, serve with peanut sauce on the side for dipping.
I know this may seem a bit overwhelming, but I highly recommend serving with the peanut sauce. If making a sandwich, the peanut sauce can be spread on a baguette in place of another condiment. So delicious!
This is the addictive and easy sauce recommended in the book and also by me.
Peanut Sauce Makes 1 1/2 c
1 T vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 c creamy peanut butter
1/4 c soy sauce
2 T rice wine vinegar
Juice from 1 lemon
1 T honey
1 t Thai fish sauce
1/4 t cayenne pepper (optional)
- Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. add the garlic and toast in the oil, stirring frequently, until fragrant and beginning to turn golden, about 1 minute (do not burn)!
- Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, fish sauce and cayenne (if using).
- Whisk together until a smooth consistency is achieved. Add a few tablespoons of water to thin the sauce if necessary. Cool in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before serving (In my opinion,you could make this the day before although the recipe does not state that).
If this entire process causes your eyes to glaze over, remember you can prepare this in increments starting a day or two ahead. The steps are not difficult so if you break it down it will seem less intimidating. I know you can do this and believe me it is so worth the effort. I served it the first night as a main dish and then made sandwiches the next day by spreading the peanut sauce on baguettes, placing the meatballs (cut in half) inside and topping with the vegetable and herb garnish. It is similar to the Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich that is so popular right now. It is a party in your mouth!
I have gone on long enough but I really wanted to share these special recipes and this cookbook with you. I feel confident I will be making many more exciting meatballs as I had to purchase the book for my collection after trying todays feature.
Let’s hear if you like these Thai inspired palate pleasers as much as I!!