I know I’ve mentioned here– on several occasions– how much I love the meatballs from my childhood. Today’s recipe is a meatball that I wouldn’t have recognized as a kid. There was nothing ethnic about the versions we would gobble up in my early years. Fresh ginger? Nope. Never had it back then. Fish sauce? Are you kidding me? I guess these Thai meatballs reflect how different my culinary life is now with access to different styles of food and ingredients. I still love those German meatballs from my childhood– I ask my mom to make them every time I get back to North Dakota– but now, I love this ethnic version as well. In fact give me ALL of the ethnic food. And make it extra spicy, please.
These meatballs definitely have some fantastic Thai flavors to them. Fresh ginger and garlic are noticeable right from the start. Ginger is one of those flavors that I can’t get enough of. It brightens the food, and oddly, my mood. Just smelling it puts me in a happy state. The cilantro adds a vibrant freshness to them, as well.
The sauce is simple, but tastes extraordinary. Using homemade chicken broth adds great depth. The spices are subtle. This is not an overpowering sauce and please keep in mind that it is not thick whatsoever– this is a thin, soup-like sauce. The cinnamon, star anise, coriander seed, and cardamom marry perfectly with the coconut milk. The beautiful color comes from the ground turmeric, which also imparts such a lovely flavor. And though simmering for a half hour is wonderful, if you have even a bit more time, more of those wonderful flavors from the spices will be released.
A couple of things to think about. I realize that not everyone can find kaffir lime leaves very easily. I found mine at an Asian grocery store. And even lemongrass might be difficult for some, though decidedly more available than the lime leaves. If you can find these items, just know that they can be stored in your freezer for future use, so stock up! They are wonderful to use this way during the winter months and they add a brightness to your soups and meals. However, if you’re living in an area that does’t carry these items, don’t fret. Please, still try the dish and substitute a bit of lime zest (from 1-2 limes) in it’s place. Though not a complete substitute, the flavor will get you there and you’ll still be able to fully enjoy this delicious meal.
We eat this meal with brown rice. It becomes a nice bowl of goodness with the meatballs and the coconut curry all swimming in the bowl together. It’s warm and comforting. And yes, in my spice-loving opinion, I think you should add a few drops of sriracha sauce onto the top of your meatballs. It is pure bliss. Making Bánh Mì meatball sandwiches with the leftover meatballs, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and spicy peppers is a fantastic variation on this meal. Hope you enjoy!
The Recipe: Thai Turkey Meatballs with Coconut Curry Sauce
(makes 39-40 meatballs)
For the Meatballs:
2 pounds ground turkey (humanely raised)
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
5 garlic cloves, finely minced
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
zest of 2 limes
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free bread crumbs, if you prefer)
1 egg, lightly whisked
For the Coconut Curry Sauce:
2 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth or purchased
15 ounces coconut milk (not lite, please)
2 teaspoons coriander seeds (toasted, if you have the time)
6 cardamom pods
2 star anise
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
5 kaffir lime leaves
3 1-inch knobs of fresh ginger, peeled and bruised
2 4-inch stalks of lemongrass, bruised (green parts removed)
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper, to taste
extra cilantro, hot peppers, and sriracha sauce for serving
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the meatball ingredients and gently mix together using your hands. Try not to over-mix meatballs, or they tend to be somewhat tough. Using a small scoop (1 tablespoon), form the mixture into balls and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet. You will end up with about 39-40 meatballs. Refrigerate for about 1 hour. This will give the flavors time to develop a bit.
Preheat oven to 350°F. After that hour, place the pan of meatballs into the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Place the coriander seeds, cardamom pods, and star anise into a piece of cheesecloth and tie it with cooking string. Gently pound on the sachet with a rolling pin to crush the spices a bit. This will release more of their flavors.
Meanwhile, start the sauce while the meatballs are baking, or just before they go into the oven. You’ll want it to simmer for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to mingle, but if you have more time than that– great! In a large 12-inch skillet with sides, or something similar, add all of the sauce ingredients, except the lime juice, to the pan. Place the sachet of spices into the sauce, as well. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a low-medium simmer with the lid on. Stir occasionally. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add the lime juice when the sauce is finished. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Place the meatballs into the sauce or keep them separate– your choice. Serve with brown rice, cilantro, spicy peppers, and plenty of sriracha! Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from Feasting At Home
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