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 much of the liquid

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp Italian herbs

2-4 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided

PROCESS

1 Combine two tablespoons of flour, with two tablespoons of the oil along with the other ingrdients. The mixture should be slightly dry, simialr to regular beef meatballs. 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 in a large frying pan adding more as needed. Cook 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 to drain some of the fat.

3 Serve these meatballs warm or at room temperature. I heated them slightly before my event. For dipping purposes, use 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: Italian, Blue Cheese or French
  • Sprinkle herbs like mint and cilantro on the meat after cooking and place pickles near
  • Serve extra fish or soy sauce along side of the meat.

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