Thursday, September 15, 2016

Vietnamese-Style Grilled Pork Meatballs with Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

Inspired by meatballs in Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches and a recipe I found for skewered Vietnamese meatballs by Molly O'Neill, my sis and I came up with this version for Labor Day weekend. Lemongrass, garlic, shallots, sugar, chiles, fish sauce, cilantro and scallions are what imparts these guys with that distinctively Vietnamese flavor. The meatballs can be eaten as is, but I like to serve them with lettuce leaves, sliced cucumbers, basil and mint leaves, and green papaya salad on the side (for wrapping), along with a Nuoc Cham dipping sauce (lime juice, sugar, garlic & fresh chiles). 


This recipe makes about 30 meatballs, or 5 per skewer.

3 lbs. ground pork
3-4 stalks lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed, ends trimmed (I use only about the bottom 3-4" of the bottom end of the stalk), finely minced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 large Fresno (red) chile, seeded and chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. black pepper

6 bamboo skewers, soaked in water

Fresh Thai basil leaves
1 English/hothouse cucumber, sliced
Butter, red or green leaf lettuce

Green Papaya Salad (optional)

Nuoc Cham sauce 

1. Make the Nuoc Cham dipping sauce and green papaya salad ahead of time.

2. Soak the bamboo skewers in water at least 30 minutes.

3. Combine ground pork and remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Using your hands, mix well.

4. Shape the mixture into 30 meatballs (about 2" diameter each) and skewer about 5 meatballs onto each bamboo skewer.

5. Heat the grill.

6. Place slotted/perforated grill pan (the kind you'd use for grilling shrimp) sprayed with cooking spray or brushed with oil over the grill. Grill about 10 minutes per side (we had to cover the meatballs with foil when using the Santa Maria grill), until the meat is cooked through and lightly charred.

7. To serve: plate the skewers onto individual serving plates. Guests can wrap the meatballs in lettuce leaves topped with basil leaves, cucumber slices, papaya salad and nuoc chom sauce.

 Finely chop the shallots, onion, cilantro, lemongrass and red chiles.

 Add the chopped veggies to the ground pork along with fish sauce, sugar, cornstarch and black pepper. Mix with your hands until well combined.

Make the Nuoc Cham sauce and set aside.

 Form the meat mixture into 1 1/2" meatballs; skewer 5 meatballs onto each skewer.

 Heat some charcoal in a grill until white hot. Here, we are using a Santa Maria-style grill (grate can be lowered or raised by a hand crank) with an oiled (you can also use Pam cooking spray) perforated grill pan on top.

 Flip the skewers over carefully once the bottom sides of the meatballs have browned. Continue grilling until the meatballs are nicely browned on all sides and just cooked through. Total cooking time is about 10 minutes per side.

 Serve the meatballs with lettuce leaves, cucumber slices, basil & mint leaves, green papaya salad and Nuoc Cham dipping sauce on the side. If you have leftovers, they are easy to reheat in a toaster oven.

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