Bun Cha -Vietnamese Meatballs

I had never heard of Vietnamese meatballs, until I was hired to make a light lunch for several ladies. It was a birthday luncheon and the special lady being honored, hailed from Vietnam. The casual event, a brunch, would be served in the backroom of their salon. All the ladies were hairdressers, and when business slowed, the ladies walked to a nearby private area and ate. I enjoyed coming up with ideas for this celebration. I made creamy dips for crackers, and biscuits. I also created a colorful vegetable tray since the salon owner who hired me expressed how much the birthday lady liked vegetables. But too I wanted to make something special that might remind her of her homeland.

On a whim, I browsed the internet and clicked on Vietnamese meatballs. How were they different from regular, American or Italian meatballs? Instantly I saw how they differed. But once I purchased the ingredients, I soon began the cooking process. Since I’ve been cooking for decades, I incorporated several of my creative ideas, which infused the dish to make it exclusively mine.

INGREDIENTS Serves 3-4

1 lb ground pork

2 Tbsp fish sauce

1/3rd cup plus 2 teaspoons finely chopped scallions

1-2 tsp sugar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp, plus 1 tsp lemongrass paste or 1-2 tsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

4 Tbsp flour, divided

2 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut roughly in 1/4 inch squares

1 small zucchini, ends discarded, grated, pressed tightly in a clean dish cloth to remove most of the liquid

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp Italian herbs

2-4 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided

PROCESS

1 Except for two tablespoons of the flour, and the oil, gently combine the other ingredients. The mixture should be slightly dry, like regular beef meatballs. (Adjust consistency if need be starting with barely adding an extra teaspoon of water. But too be carefully not to make them too wet.) Shape into 18-22 disk-like rounds, about 2-3 tablespoons per round. Do not pack each ball too tight. Gently roll the rounds in the remaining two tablespoons of flour, shaking off any excess. Place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

2 Beginning with two tablespoons of oil, heated to medium-high, adding more as needed, fry six meat patties at a time for about 2-4 minutes on each side until golden. Adjust heat as necessary so not to burn the meat. Press down slightly as you cook them.. When done, place on a paper towel covered plate.

3 Serve these meatballs warm or at room temperature. I heated them slightly before the event began for my salon job. For dipping purposes, try Ranch dressing, which also worked well with the vegetables. But the patties, when I cooked them at home, tasted excellent even alone, without any dip, according to my husband.

TIPS AND TWEAKS

Use ground beef, turkey or chicken, instead of pork

Once cooked, serve with bean sprouts, cucumbers or shredded carrots and/or cabbage

Other dressings for dipping use Italian, Blue Cheese or French and with soy sauce

Sprinkle on the cooked meat herbs like mint, and cilantro and place pickles alongside

serve extra fish sauce on the side for more tangy flavor

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