Vietnamese-style chicken meatballs for dinner

Vietnamese-style chicken meatballs (Photo by Keri White)

My daughter recently invited a bunch of gal pals to the beach. We had planned a traditional burgers-and-dogs cookout, but she informed me that one of the guests would only eat a “chicken burger.”

I rolled my eyes a bit, but dutifully bought a pound of ground chicken at the supermarket to accommodate this preference. Then chicken-burger girl didn’t come, and I was stuck with a pound of something that I never use.

But I have spoken before of my abhorrence of waste and was determined to find a tasty use for the ground chicken. This simple recipe was a huge hit, as was the brown/cauliflower rice blend and the accompanying salad.

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Vietnamese-style chicken meatballs
Makes 12 meatballs, which serve 3 or 4 people

Before I made these, I looked at several other recipes and came up with my own. I was pleasantly surprised that the meatballs held together well without additional binders — no egg, no panko or breadcrumbs — so the dish is a good option for people with allergies.

For the meatballs:

1 pound ground chicken
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeño pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon soy sauce
4 tablespoons finely chopped onion, divided
2 tablespoons canola oil for frying

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce or Japanese barbecue sauce
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth

Fresh cilantro for garnish, if desired.

Heat your oven to 350 F.

Make the meatballs: In a medium bowl, mix the chicken, ginger, garlic, jalapeño, 3 tablespoons of the onion, cilantro and soy sauce. Heat the oil in the skillet with the remaining tablespoon of onion until fragrant.

Form the chicken into meatballs—slightly smaller than a golf ball. Pack them rather firmly, and place them in the skillet to brown.

Turn the meatballs over until the outsides are browning, but they are not cooked through. Each batch should take about 5 minutes.

Place the meatballs in an ovenproof dish with a lid. (I used a square Pyrex or Corning-type 2-quart dish).

Set the meatballs aside and make the sauce: In the same skillet, add the ginger and garlic to the sautéed onions. Stir until fragrant.

Add the remaining ingredients, and stir while bringing it to a boil. Cook for several minutes until the liquid reduces a bit, and then pour it over the meatballs.

Cover the meatballs, and bake them in a heated oven for 30 minutes until they are cooked through.

Top the meatballs with fresh cilantro, and serve them over rice or with lettuce cups.

Brown/cauliflower rice
Serves 4

Like many of my recipes, this came out of a need to pivot. I had intended to make brown rice, but the quantity left in the bag was insufficient for the four guests I intended to feed, and I did not have time to go to the store.

I scanned the pantry and fridge and discovered that I had a bit of raw cauliflower rice left from another recipe. An idea began to germinate. It worked — and when this side dish was topped with the tasty meatballs and flavorful sauce, no one sneered about the whole grain rice laced with vegetables!

1½ cups brown rice
1 cup cauliflower rice
pinch of salt

In a large saucepan, cook the rice according to the package directions. When it is just done and still hot, remove it from the heat, and add the cauliflower rice. Stir, cover and let it sit for a few minutes. This will “cook” the cauliflower rice and deliver a nice texture.

Soy rice vinegar dressing
Makes about ¼ cup

This dressing was the perfect complement to a simple summer lettuce salad. It could also be tossed with any of the following, or a combo thereof: baby greens, raw cucumbers, sliced ​​tomatoes, grated carrots, chopped cabbage, green beans or even cooked veggies.

1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons canola oil (or other mild oil)
1-2 teaspoons soy sauce
A few drops of Sriracha or other hot sauce, if desired
1 teaspoon sesame oil
pinch sugar

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl or sealable container until ready to use. PJC

Keri White writes for the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication where this first appeared.



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