Flavorful, tender meatballs are served over a bed of rice or noodles, with crunchy salad, sweet and tangy pickled vegetables and a drizzle of creamy spicy dressing over the top. The inspiration for this dish came from a recipe by fellow Blogger (Pinch of Yum) but I’ve tweaked it up a little to suit our family’s taste. The meatballs are addictive, I always double the recipe as they freeze beautifully and need only defrosting before finishing off in the oven to serve. The Quick Pickles are a cinch to make and you can pretty much pickle any vegetable you like in this pickling liquid, plus leftovers are just as delicious the next day. The Sriracha Cream Dressing is also great with other salads, as well as a dipping sauce for grilled chicken or fish, so make extra and store in the fridge for up to five days.
Everything can be prepared in advance which is brilliant especially if you’re entertaining. Thanks to this recipe, I’ve been introduced to two new ingredients Coconut Palm Sugar and Fish Sauce. Coconut Palm Sugar is an unrefined brown sugar made from the nectar of the coconut palm tree flower. It has a rich caramel flavor and is a staple ingredient in Asian dishes but can also be used like regular brown or white sugar in baking. You’ll find it in any whole food grocery store as well as mainstream supermarkets (I bought mine in Tom Thumb). Regular light brown sugar can be substituted but I recommend you seek out this unique sugar.
I’ve always been hesitant about Fish Sauce, but was urged by the writer to give it a try and experience the unmistakable ‘umami’ flavor. I knew it had a pungent smell so resisted sniffing it before adding to the meatballs! Yes, it is indeed a very good ingredient and one I won’t hesitate to use again in this and other recipes. It’s made from anchovies and salt but if that turns you off, please substitute with Tamari, or Soy Sauce, which also makes it suitable for vegetarians (they could also enjoy this dish by substituting chunks of marinated Tofu for the Meatballs).
Please don’t be put off by the list of ingredients, it’s not really that bad and you might already have most of them in your pantry.
Quick Pickled Vegetables
1/2 cup Rice Vinegar
1/4 cup Coconut Palm Sugar (I used ‘Wholesome’ brand, see photo below)
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
6 Carrots, peels and cut into thin ribbons with a peeler, or into thin matchsticks
3 Radishes, cut into matchsticks or sliced
1 Shallot peeled and thinly sliced
Any other crunchy vegetable you’d like
1 lb Ground Chicken Thighs (or ground Pork if preferred)
2 Tablespoons Lemongrass Paste (see photo below)
4 cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 Tablespoon Sriracha (or your favorite chili paste)
1 Tablespoon Thai Fish Sauce
1 Tablespoon Coconut Palm Sugar
2 teaspoons Cornstarch
1 teaspoon Salt
Starch: Cooked Rice, Noodles or Quinoa
Leaves: Finely shredded Napa Cabbage or Romaine Lettuce (crunchy leaves are better)
Herbs/Aromatics: Cilantro, Mint, Basil, sliced green onion, thinly sliced hot peppers
Garnish: Crushed Toasted Peanuts or Toasted Sesame Seeds
3 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons Sriracha
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar (or more as needed)
2 teaspoons Honey (optional)
1) METHOD FOR QUICK PICKLED VEGETABLES
One hour ahead of serving :
1) In a large screw top jar add Rice Vinegar, Coconut Palm Sugar, Toasted Sesame Oil and Salt. Attach the lid tightly and shake well to combine all ingredients.
2) Add the prepared vegetables to the jar and pack in well before replacing lid. Shake the jar, the vegetables will wilt down as they are pickling. Shake the jar every 20 minutes to combine everything and they’ll be ready to enjoy in one hour. This can be made up to 6 hours ahead of time, but keep refrigerated.
2) METHOD FOR MEATBALLS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
a) In a large mixing bowl, combine and mix all the Meatball ingredients until incorporated. Allow mixture to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm up.
b) Divide mixture into even sized golf ball portions and roll into balls – I use an ice cream scoop for even measuring. Heat a nonstick frypan over medium-high heat and add 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil. In batches, brown meatballs on all sides, trying to keep the shape as best you can – they will not be fully cooked yet. Place onto a baking sheet while continuing to brown the remaining meatballs. Freeze at this stage if not serving immediately.
c) To complete cooking, place meatballs on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes or until internal temperature of 165 degrees F is reached.
3) METHOD FOR RICE, NOODLES OR QUINOA
1) Cook the starch of your choice according to packet ingredients, and keep warm.
METHOD FOR SRIRACHA CREAM DRESSING
1) In a small bowl, whisk together Mayonnaise, Sriracha paste and enough Rice Vinegar to make a thick, pourable dressing. Check for seasoning – a little honey can be added if you like it sweeter.
BRING ALL THIS DELICIOUSNESS TOGETHER!
In a large bowl, layer as follows:
Rice or noodles
Napa Cabbage or crunchy greens with Herbs of choice sprinkled around
Thinly sliced Green Onions and/or Hot Chili Peppers
Handful of toasted peanuts or sesame seeds