Mighty Meaty

Meat balls with five spice powder and sweet chili sauce

If you think meatballs are plain — and boring — you’ve never had them like this. Ground pork perked up with five-spice powder, grated ginger and garlic, fried until golden-brown, served with homemade sweet chili sauce and topped with toasted sesame seeds.

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For best results, use ground pork with a generous amount of fat. Oh, I know, it’ll make health buffs squirm but meat balls have a funny way of disintegrating, and turning dry and rubbery, if the meat is too lean. The fat is a binder, if you don’t know it yet. Some cooks try to make lean meat balls stick together by adding bread crumbs or flour but it just doesn’t taste the same. Even the texture is different. So, there. The fat content is essential. Not a huge amount of fat, anyway — about 10% to 15% should do it.

This dish cooks in 30 minutes or less.

Makes 15 2-inch meatballs, or 18 1-1/2 inch meatballs.

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

500 g. of finely ground pork with 10% to 15% of fat
1 large onion, finely chopped
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
1 small carrot, peeled and grated
1 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. of five-spice powder
1 tbsp. of oyster sauce
1 tbsp. of hoisin sauce
a drizzle of sesame seed oil

For the sweet chili sauce:

1/4 c. of rice wine
1/4 c. of water
1/2 c. of sugar
1 tsp. of chili flakes
a generous pinch of salt

2 to 3 c. of vegetable cooking oil
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Make the sweet chili sauce. Pour the rice wine and water into a sauce pan. Add the sugar. Boil without stirring until the sugar melts (you can swirl the pan though but stirring will result in the formation of crystals). Add the chili flakes and salt. Boil uncovered over medium heat until syrupy. Set aside and cool.

Mix together all the ingredients for the meatballs. Form into 1-1/2 inch balls (or 2-inch balls if you like them larger).

Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan. Over high heat, fry the meatballs in batches until nicely browned, rolling them in the hot oil for even browning. The objective is to brown the outside which the inside stays moist yet cooked through. Ergo, high heat and short cooking time, about four to five minutes per batch. As each batch cooks, scoop out and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Fry the next batch until all the meatballs are cooked.

To serve, arrange the meatballs on a plate. Drizzle the sweet chili sauce over and around them. Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds and serve at once.

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