These spicy meatballs are best served with jasmine or basmati rice. You will want to drizzle a generous amount of that sweet creamy sauce over your rice before you start eating.
How difficult is it to make this dish? It’s easy. And you save a lot of time if you broil the meatballs in the oven while you make the sauce. That way, by the time the meatballs are done, the sauce has simmered for a while and the flavors have concentrated.
There’s another reason though why the meatballs are broiled instead of browned in oil in a frying pan. But, first, let’s talk about the meatballs themselves.
To give the meatballs better texture, use finely ground meat with at least twenty per cent fat. Season, mix and knead. Kneading (we do this in the stand mixer with the paddle attachment) distributes the seasonings evenly and allows the fat to bind the meat. If you have time, pack the seasoned ground meat in a container and leave to sit in the fridge overnight. Resting the meat mellows the seasonings.
To give the meatballs a lighter texture (as opposed to being dense), panko is added just before the ground meat is formed into balls.
Now, about why the meatballs are broiled instead of pan fried. Unless you deep fry your meatballs, you will need to turn them around to make sure that the entire surface gets browned. The constant turning can make the meatballs crumble. In the oven, you don’t need to do anything with them except wait for them to cook. With the top and bottom heat of the oven on, browning is a breeze.
Since it takes about fifteen minutes to cook the meatballs (longer if they are large), you use that time to make the coconut curry sauce. There’s nothing hard about making the sauce BUT, if you want Thai flavors, you need to have the correct ingredients.
The photos above shows the ingredients for the spice base. If you want to do it the authentic Thai way, you will want to grind the shallot, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, ginger and garlic to a paste before sauteeing them.
The curry powder is self-explanatory. The chili flakes I used here came from a Korean grocery. Korean chili flakes are more sweet than hot. The cilantro lime pepper seasoning is a spice mix we buy in jars. I used it because we were out of cilantro. If you don’t have the seasoning, just add a tablespoon of cilantro roots and stems to the spice base.
Once the spice base is ready, coconut cream is poured in. The sauce will look pale at this point but don’t worry. As the reddish-brown spices simmer in the coconut cream, the liquid will acquire their color and darken.
And the sauce will darken some more as it thickens after the meatballs are thrown in. Since the meatballs are fully cooked, they need to braise in the sauce for only ten minutes or so to give them a chance to soak up the flavors.
Thai-spiced meatball curry
Coconut curry sauce
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 shallot - peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic - peeled and chopped
- 1 one-inch knob ginger - peeled and chopped
- 1 pair kaffir lime leaves - (center rib discarded) thinly sliced
- 1 stalk lemongrass - (bottom portion only) peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon cilantro lime pepper seasoning - (or use chopped cilantro stems and roots)
- 1 can coconut cream - about two cups
- fish sauce - to taste
- cilantro, Thai basil or mint - or two or all of them
Make the meatballs
- Mix together all the ingredients for the meatballs except the panko.
- Knead the mixture until it acquires the appearance of a very thick paste.
- Preheat the oven to 375F with both top and bottom heat on.
- Line a baking tray with non-stick paper.
- Mix the ground meat with the panko and form into two-inch balls.
- Arrange the meatballs on the prepared tray and cook in the oven for fifteen minutes.
Cook the coconut curry sauce
- Heat the coconut oil in a pan.
- Saute the shallot, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves with the curry powder, chili flakes and cilantro lime pepper seasoning.
- Pour in the coconut cream and a tablespoon of fish sauce, and simmer uncovered for a few minutes.
Braise the meatballs
- Add the meatballs to the coconut curry sauce.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes.
Serve your meatballs with coconut curry sauce
- Sprinkle snipped basil, cilantro or lime, or all of them, over the meatball curry.
- Serve with jasmine or basmati rice.