Vietnamese Meatballs

vietnamese meatballs-2

Vietnamese Meatballs

Vietnamese food is one of my favourite Asian cuisines. All those fresh herbs and pungent fish sauce combined with hot hot chilli, it’s hard to be bored with all the wonderful flavours. I also love the French influences, like their love of coffee and crusty bread.

enough for 2-3
takes: 15 minutes

500g (1lb) minced (ground) chicken
5 small mushrooms
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste or ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sherry or rice vinegar
pinch dried chilli
1 bunch fresh mint leaves
1 bunch fresh coriander (cilantro)
1/4 cauliflower

1. sauce. Place a large fry pan on a high heat and add tomato paste or ketchup, soy sauce and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer.

2. meatballs. Combine chicken, chopped mushrooms. sesame oil and soy sauce in a large bowl.

3. Using your hands and a tablespoon, shape the mixture into walnut sized balls. Placing them in the simmering sauce as you go.

4. Cover the meatballs and simmer gently for 7-8 minutes.

5. cauliflower rice: Meanwhile, chop cauliflower into florettes and coarsley grate using a food processor.

6. salad: Combine fish sauce, vinegar, chilli and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl. Taste and season if needed, although it probably won’t need any salt.

7. Roughly chop coriander (cilantro) and pick the mint leaves, discarding stems. Place herbs on top of the dressing and take to the table.

8. meatballs. Check the meatballs to make sure they are cooked through. Leave for a little longer if needed. Serve meatballs with cauli rice and salad on the side.

Prepare Ahead?

The meatballs can be made ahead and reheated gently in the sauce. Salad on the other hand is best made fresh.

Leftover Potential

Will keep in the fridge for a week or so.


vegetarian – try a Vietnamese version of these lentil balls.

carnivore – feel free to replace the chicken with pork, veal or even beef.

no sesame oil? – just skip it or replace with toasted sesame seeds

no fish sauce? – replace it with soy sauce instead.

gluten-free – make sure you’re using tamari or other good quality gluten-free soy sauce.

carb lovers – replace cauliflower with steamed rice (no need to grate it of course!)

more veg – cook extra mushrooms in the sauce.

paleo (grain, legume & dairy-free) – replace soy sauce with coconut aminoa.

Waste Avoidance Strategy

chicken, mushrooms – freeze.

sesame oil, soy sauce, tomato paste or ketchup, fish sauce, vinegar, chilli – pantry.

mint, coriander (cilantro) – best to use for another meal. Can be frozen but will wilt when defrosted.

cauliflower – will keep for a few weeks in a plastic bag in the fridge. Can be frozen but the texture will lose its crunch when defrosted.

Problem Solving Guide

bland – season with a little more soy..

too salty – the soy can overpower – so be careful with the seasoning. Same with the fish sauce in the salad. A little sugar can help balance out the excess salt.

meatballs falling apart – could be too many mushrooms or simmering too roughly, Or trying to turn the meatballs before they’re properly cooked,

meatballs too dry – if overcooked they will dry out. Next time simmer more gently and check earlier.

sauce too dry
– remember to simmer the meatballs with some sort of covering so they cook more quickly and the sauce stays nice and moist.

Serving Suggestions

I like to serve the different components (meatballs, salad and cauliflower ‘rice’) in the middle of the table and let everyone help themselves.

Chopsticks make for a more authentic experience.

back to: 15 Minute Meals Overview

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