Lemongrass Meatballs and Vietnamese Style Pickles in Lettuce Cups

19 Apr

Some time last year I began a love affair with using lemongrass in my cooking. The zesty herb popular in Thai and Vietnamese dishes like Tom Yum soup and lemongrass pork chops has the same refreshing citrus characteristics as lemons, but without the bitter undertones. Lemongrass also carries a hint of ginger flavor, making it a perfect companion to pork and fish dishes.

This recipe for pork and lemongrass meatballs is based off of a recipe from the March 2011 issue of Bon Appetit. Since I didn’t have time  to make the meatballs in time to chill overnight, I added egg and flour to the recipe so the meatballs held together better and could be fried right away. As it turns out, I really enjoyed the velvety texture of meatball interior with the egg addition and the coloring of the outside golden crust. Add some crunchy quick pickled radishes and cucumbers (recipe at bottom of post) and serve in butter lettuce cups, and it’s a colorful feast for the eyes and a textural party for the mouth.

Lemongrass Meatballs 

Recipe yields 12 meatballs

1/2 lb ground pork
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lemongrass stalk, white and yellow parts only, sliced
1 leek stalk, white part only, sliced (can also use shallots or spring onion)
3-4 sprigs cilantro, stems removed, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 clove garlic
1 large egg
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper

  • Combine everything but the pork and vegetable oil (last 10 ingredients) in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Add in ground pork and pulse to blend. Shape pork mixture into 12 meatballs (about 1 inch in diameter).
  • Heat vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Fry meatballs until golden brown, turning frequently so that meatballs are cooked evenly on all sides. (Meatballs can also be fried in deep fryer).
  • Remove meatballs to drain on a paper towel lined plate. Serve in lettuce cups with Vietnamese style quick pickles (recipe below).

Nutrition Facts

Per meatball
as calculated by Sparkpeople Recipe Calculator

Calories 76 | Fat 6g | Cholesterol 29mg | Sodium 328mg
Carbohydrate 2g | Sugars 1g | Protein 4g

Vitamin A 3% | Vitamin B-6 5% | Vitamin B-12 3% | Vitamin C 2%
Vitamin E 2% | Calcium 1%| Folate 3% | Iron 3%

Pickling is a great way to preserve seasonal veggies and add a touch of flavor to any dish. In addition to using them as condiments to meat dishes, I like throwing them on salads to add some extra zing. I get a lot of radishes in my CSA box in the spring, and I enjoy how pickling cuts down on the bitterness of the radishes and enhances out their subtle sweetness. Cucumbers, carrots, okra, cauliflower, and pearl onions are some other favorites.

Quick Pickling Mix (Vietnamese Style)

Pickling veggies cut to desired bite size
1 part rice vinegar
3 parts water
1 Thai chili per 8 oz (1 cup) of pickling liquid, sliced into thin rings (can also use jalapeno or serrano)
3 tbsp sugar per 8 oz (1 cup) of pickling liquid
1/2 tbsp salt per 8 oz (1 cup) of pickling liquid

Mix water and vinegar and pour over veggies in a jar until all veggies are fully submerged in liquid. Add in chopped chilis, sugar, and salt based on volume of pickling liquid, stirring to mix. Place lid on jar and chill at least 6 hours. Pickles can be kept for up to 2 weeks, but I like them the best the first 1 or 2 days. After that the veggies tend to be too soggy for my liking.

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