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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bun Nem Nuong - Vietnamese Meatballs

Ah meatballs.. let me reflect on my love for thee..
You make me feel creative and sneaky.. for only I know what you are composed of.
I love that I can go down any path with you and you'll happily follow.  Add fennel seeds and garlic, you are Italian.. add worcestershire sauce and tabasco, you are American, add garam masala and turmeric, you are Indian, add soy sauce and doubanjiang, you are Chinese, add lemongrass and fish sauce, you are Vietnamese..
And that last idea is the one that stuck.  This all happened because the ground veal was on sale 2 for 1.. and I can never resist a good deal.  The real dealmaker was when I went to the store for some cilantro and came back with some thai basil.
Thai basil!
I've never seen it before and I'm sure I won't see it again for quite some time, so I jumped on the occasion.  It is very different than "normal" basil.  It is more tart and lemony and actually doesn't really taste like basil, but it has it's own world happening.  
I love when life gives me a subtle wink..
Yield 44 meatballs
500g (1lb) ground meat of your choice (I used 350g ground veal, 150g ground turkey)
2 carrots, finely grated
3 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 inch piece ginger, finely grated
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder (I used alsa)
2 leaves napa cabbage, finely diced
2 green onions, finely diced
1 large handful thai basil, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 Tbsp)
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp five spice
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
4 Tbsp water or more as needed
for pan frying:
2 Tbsp oil (I used olive)
1.  Make the meatballs by mixing all the ingredients together.  I did it with my hands, but traditionally you would use chopsticks and stir in one direction.  Let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour refrigerated.
2.  Add in more water if needed.  The mixture should not be dry.  You should be able to form balls with your hands but it should be very gooey.  Make bite sized balls out of the mixture.  Mine were a little bigger than a lychee.
3.  To help the meatballs keep their shape, steam them on high for 5 minutes.
I did this in 3 batches in my steamer basket.  They can be done at this point if you want them to.. but I like the extra step.
4.  To get a nice color on them, when ready to eat, do a last minute pan fry of the meatballs.  Heat the oil in a wok and add as many meatballs as you are going to eat.  I froze the ones I hadn't pan-fried yet for future use.

or used as a topping to a Bun noodle salad.. as I did.

I'm very pleased with these meatballs.  They had a nice texture with a good mouthful of flavors.  I'm glad I used veal instead of pork, which to me smells funny in Asian style meatballs.  They were very juicy, as I was hoping and were a perfect addition to my Bun salad collection.  These would be great dipped in hoisin sauce or rolled in some sesame seeds for a future dim sum party!
These would work well in a romaine lettuce wrap or as a sandwich.. or even with some fried rice too.

The unmade bed picture is always my favorite...

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