Pork Banh Mi’t Balls are Vietnamese flavored meatballs that make the perfect appetizer for any event. Made with DIY home ground meat, these meatballs pack all the flavors of a Banh Mi Sandwich into a single bite.
Banh Mi? I Hardly Even Know Me!
Well your existential crises aside, let’s talk about Vietnamese food! Actually, let’s talk about the French occupation of Indochina from 1887-1954.
OMG That Sounds BORING!
Yeah, Yeah. History can be fun! Basically the French occupied Vietnam for well over half a century and usually when an occupying force holds a territory the soldiers bring their own food to that land. In this case they brought baguettes, and when 2 cultures merge cuisines, everyone wins. Don’t believe me? Just try Korean Tacos, Pork Loco Moco Mazeman (Spicy Pork Ramen), or Mochiko Chicken. Basically, Banh Mi is a sandwich made of Vietnamese flavored meat or tofu, cilantro, and other veggies inside a baguette. If you’ve never had one, you are missing out.
For Christmas last year, I was looking for the perfect thing to make for an appetizer. It’s my first real year blogging and I decided that whatever I picked had to be a real showstopper, and Christmas at my aunt’s house is actually a pretty extravagant affair, so it had to be REALLY good.
I spent a day or so poring through through all the big sites. and browsing their christmas articles. Everything seemed kind of lame and then my ADHD kicked in and I just started clicking around. I found this recipe for a Pork Banh Mi on Epicurious and then a lightbulb popped up above my head. Turn this recipe into a bite sized banh mi on a stick without the bread. I call them Banh Mi’t Balls.
OK I’m Sold. Banh Mi, Baby!
Alright! Let’s do this!. The original recipe makes enough for 4 sandwiches and that is no where near enough to feed a party, especially considering we won’t be using any bread. I doubled the sauce and meat, which makes about 50-60 meatballs. The good thing is this recipe scales REALLY well so you can multiply it to your heart’s content!
First thing’s first, we need ground pork. You COULD just go out and buy ground pork but I’m gonna teach you how to do it at home. If I have the opportunity, I always ground my own meat.
Why Should I Grind My Own Meat?
Ok. So when you buy ground beef from the store, you get a hodgepodge of trimmings, ends, and generally unwanted cuts of meat. The big brands will even add things like cellulose (sawdust) to the mixture. Grinding your own meat means you get fluffy, rich meatballs and burgers that actually taste like rich meat. You can also contain the amount of fat in your patty and you also know that your meat comes from 1 animal, not whatever random parts that the factory didn’t want.
Hmm So How Do I Grind My Own Meat?
Now here’s the thing. Grinding your own meat is super easy! Do you have a kitchen aid stand mixer? Of course you do! You probably got one for a wedding gift and its been sitting on your counter collecting dust. Well did you know it’s a versatile little thing? Kitchen Aid also sells a meat grinder attachment.
This is actually a vintage meat grinder attachment made by kitchen aid. They don’t sell it anymore in its metal incarnation and we managed to find this stainless steel gem at a garage sale. I’ll get to why I prefer it over plastic in a sec but let’s talk about how to use it. There’s a metal plate on the front of your Kitchen Aid with a little knob on the right. Twist it and the plate will come off. The hole in the front is where you’ll be affixing your grinder attachment.
For this recipe I started with a 2 pound pork loin. Using a sharp knife, cut that loin into 2 inch cubes. The size of the cubes doesn’t really matter, just make sure it’s small enough to fit in the hole. The next step is to cool the meat down a bit so it grinds well. Put the chunks in an airtight container and then freeze it for 30 minutes. This chills the fat and keeps it from getting mushy, giving you a better grind. Lastly, to get an even better grind we should also freeze the grinder as well. This is why I like a metal one as it holds the cold better than plastic and for that reason I say you should pick up this one.
Once the 30 minutes of chilling time are up, you’ll have to move quickly to make sure the grinder remains cold. Attach it to the Kitchen Aid, and turn it on at speed setting 4. Toss your meat cubes into the hopper in small batches and push them through using the tamper included with the grinder. After all this is done, you should have a bowl filled with 2 pounds of beautiful, fluffy, ground meat.
Next, we have to flavor the meat. Add the basil, garlic, scallions, fish sauce, sriracha, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and pepper, and mix it all up with your hands. At this point, you can refrigerate the meat to make the next day.
When you are ready to start frying the meatballs, you should first start pickling the veggies. Using a mandolin slicer, cut the daikon and carrots to a thickness of 3 millimeters. Most mandolins allow you to do this, but it may also be referred to as “medium”.
Wait WTF Is A Daikon?
Good question! A daikon is an asian white radish that has a much more delicate flavor than a western radish and is also massive compared to western radishes. Actually, its name in both Chinese and Japanese translates to “big radish”. You can find them in Asian stores, some green grocers, and Whole Foods. For this recipe, find the skinniest one you can.
Anyway, slice the carrots and daikon 3 millimeters thick. Slice one for each meatball which should be about 50-60. If you have extra, you could always put it in a salad! Next, we’re going to quick pickle these veggies. Pour 2/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar, 2/3 cup of white sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt into a large glass bowl. Stir to mix well and add the veggies. Let it stand at room temperature for an hour.
While that’s happening, it’s time to make the sriracha-mayo sauce. For this recipe I used Kewpie mayonnaise (Pronounced Kew-pee-eh). Western mayo is usually made with white vinegar or lemon juice, while kewpie is made with rice vinegar and is smoother in taste and texture. Mix together 1 1/3 cups kewpie, 2 tablespoons of sriracha and 4 finely chopped scallions. Stir together well and refrigerate until you are ready.
Lastly, use a tablespoon measure to portion 1 meat ball and roll it up with moistened hands into a nice ball making sure not to pack it too tightly. Place the meatball onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Wax paper is really optional, but it helps keep things neat. Repeat the process until you are out of meat.
At this point we are ready to start cooking!
Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough sesame oil to line the bottom of the pan and heat for an additional minute. In batches, fry the meatballs until cooked through and browned on all sides (about 5 minutes per side). Transfer to a paper towel and let the meatballs rest. Repeat the process until all the balls are cooked.
Lastly, we need to assemble the whole thang. Top 1 meatball with a dab of sriracha-kewpie sauce and add a slice of daikon, slice of carrot, and leaf of cilantro. Stab the whole thing with a toothpick to hold it together. Repeat until they’re all done. At this point you can put them into a a sealed container to reheat later and when you’re ready to serve, just put them in the oven at 350ºF for 5 minutes. Serve with the leftover sauce on the side for dipping.
Phew I got a through the whole post without making a joke about balls.
DAS A LOT OF BALLS!!!
Currently Jamming To
All About That Bass on an upright bass.
This recipe requires a little something special. Here’s a list of what you will need: