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Grilled Vietnamese Pork Meatballs (with Garlic and Lemongrass)

by Lily
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5 from 1 vote

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Ground pork mixed with fresh aromatics and spices for a flavourful result straight off the grill. You’ll be surprised by the easy tricks that make them so juicy (without adding water)!

Meatballs. You can’t go wrong. Amiright?! In Vietnam, these grilled pork meatballs are popular in bánh mì chả thịt nướng (sub sandwich with grilled pork meatballs), on rice, or as bún chả (vermicelli noodles with fresh herbs and sauce). Traditionally the meatballs are slow-grilled over charcoal for best flavour and can be found at many street vendors. It is impossible to walk by one of these stalls without salivating. One whiff and you get a combination of roasted garlic/lemongrass combined with a savoury/sweet smell of smokey grilled pork. Since not everyone owns a charcoal grill, these meatballs can be grilled on a gas bbq, pan-fried or oven-baked.

*Good To Know*

  • Should I use medium or lean ground pork?
    I recommend medium ground pork since this contributes to the juicy flavour of the meatballs. If you only have lean ground pork on hand, you can add 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or lard to the ground pork.
  • What are the tricks to keep the meatballs juicy?
    Follow these tips, and you will end up with tasty meatballs:
    1. Use medium ground pork. Sometimes the label on the package will have a ratio of 80/20 or, in other words, 80% lean meat to 20% fat.
    2. Do not overmix the pork. Mix only enough to combine the ingredients with the meat to keep it tender. Over mixing can cause the meatballs to be dense.
    3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
      When meatballs are chilled, it helps them firm up by keeping the fat in the meat cold and develop more flavour while they rest. The key here is to keep meatballs firm to retain the juicy flavours after they are grilled. Do not skip this step!
    4. Shape meatballs the same size. I used a Tablespoon to scoop equal portions of meat before shaping the meatballs. This kept everything the same size and made grilling the meatballs for doneness easier (especially with timing).
  • How else can I cook the meatballs?
    If you do not own a BBQ oven, you can cook the meatballs 3 other ways, just know that the meatball’s texture will vary slightly based on your choice of cooking method:
    1. Oven-baked: Preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C). Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and spray it with oil. Place meatballs 1 inch apart on the tray. Bake 15 – 20 minutes or until internal temperature registers 165°F (74°C) on a food thermometer.
    2. Pan-fried: Heat a large nonstick pan on medium-high heat with 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil. Pan-fry meatballs in a single layer without overcrowding the pan for 5 – 7 minutes, then flip and fry for another 5 – 7 minutes. If the meatballs are still pink on the inside, then cook them for another minute or until fully cooked through. 
    3. Air-fried: Preheat air fryer to 400°F (204°C). Place meatballs 1 inch apart in a single layer in your air fryer basket and air fry meatballs for 10 – 15 minutes until fully cooked.

Ingredients you will need

  • medium ground pork
  • lemongrass (read more about minced lemongrass here)
  • garlic
  • fish sauce
  • oyster sauce
  • brown sugar
  • ground black pepper

Season the ground pork

Add all ingredients to a large bowl and lightly mix everything until just combined. Do not over mix in order to keep the meatballs tender. Cover and refrigerate the seasoned meat for at least 30 minutes or longer.

Tip

  • To mix lightly and evenly, I use my hand like a ‘claw’ and ‘stir’ the meat until everything is combined.
  • Not sure if the meat is seasoned to your liking? Scoop a tablespoon of the meat into a heat-proof dish and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Taste and season it with more fish sauce or brown sugar to your preference.

Shape the meatballs

Use a Tablespoon and scoop the meat generously but make sure that each scoop is about the same size. I used gloves to prevent the meat from sticking to my hands. You can also wet your hands with water or grease your hands with a bit of vegetable oil. Shape meatballs, then flatten them lightly. Each meatball should have a 2-inch diameter and a 1-inch thickness. This makes grilling meatballs easier when lightly flattened. Place meatballs on a baking tray lined with wax paper or aluminum foil.

How to grill meatballs

If you have a charcoal grill, prepare the charcoal to be around medium heat (not high). Spread charcoal out evenly.  For gas BBQ ovens, set your temperature on medium heat at around 400°F (204°C). Dip a paper towel in vegetable oil and use a tong to brush the paper towel over the grill to season it. Place meatballs about 2 or 3 inches apart. Close the lid and grill for 1 ½ minutes. Flip and grill for another 1 ½ minutes. Repeat this one more time for each side, then remove meatballs off the grill.

You can check for doneness by cutting one of the meatballs in half. It should be evenly cooked throughout. If it is still pink in the center, grill for another 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. Alternatively, you can use a food thermometer to check doneness with an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

How easy was that?! In under an hour, you have these delicious meatballs to devour! Enjoy meatballs on their own as appetizers, on rice, noodles, or with bread.

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Grilled Vietnamese Pork Meatballs (with Garlic and Lemongrass)

Ground pork mixed with fresh aromatics and spices for a flavourful result straight off the grill. You'll be surprised by the easy tricks that make them so juicy (without adding water)!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Refrigeration Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 41 minutes
Yields: 24 meatballs

Ingredients

  • pounds (1.13 kg) medium ground pork
  • 5 Tablespoons (25 g) minced lemongrass, *see notes*
  • 3 teaspoons (9 g) garlic (4 cloves), peeled & minced or pressed
  • 3 Tablespoons (44 ml) fish sauce
  • 4 Tablespoons (48 g) brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) oyster sauce
  • ¼ teaspoons (1 g) ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS 

  • Add all ingredients to a large bowl and lightly mix everything until just combined. Do not over mix in order to keep the meatballs tender. Cover and refrigerate the seasoned meat for at least 30 minutes or longer.
  • Preheat your BBQ oven to medium heat (about 400°F).
  • Use a Tablespoon to scoop the meat generously. Make sure that each scoop is about the same size. I used food-safe gloves to prevent the meat from sticking to my hands. You can also wet your hands with water or grease your hands with a bit of vegetable oil. Shape each scoop into a ball, then flatten it lightly. Each meatball should have a 2-inch diameter and a 1-inch thickness
  • Dip a clean paper towel in vegetable oil and use a tong to brush the paper towel over the grill to season it. You can also use a BBQ-friendly oil spray instead.
  • Place meatballs 2 inches apart on the grill. Close the lid and grill for 1 ½ minutes. Flip and grill for another 1 ½ minutes. Repeat this one more time for each side, then remove meatballs off the grill onto a clean tray or plate.
  • You can check for doneness by cutting one of the meatballs in half. It should be evenly cooked throughout. If it is still pink in the center, grill for another 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. Alternatively, you can use a food thermometer to check doneness with an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Enjoy meatballs while they're hot on their own, with rice, noodles, or with bread!

Video

Category: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Asian, Vietnamese
Keyword: garlic, ground pork, lemongrass, pork

Tips

Should I use medium or lean ground pork?
I recommend medium ground pork since this contributes to the juicy flavour of the meatballs. If you only have lean ground pork on hand, you can add 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or lard to the ground pork.
 
What are the tricks to keep the meatballs juicy?
Follow these tips, and you will end up with tasty meatballs:
  1. Use medium ground pork. Sometimes the label on the package will have a ratio of 80/20 or, in other words, 80% lean meat to 20% fat.
  2. Do not overmix the pork. Mix only enough to combine the ingredients with the meat to keep it tender. Over mixing can cause the meatballs to be dense.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
    When meatballs are chilled, it helps them firm up by keeping the fat in the meat cold and develop more flavour while they rest. The key here is to keep meatballs firm to retain the juicy flavours after they are grilled. Do not skip this step!
  4. Shape meatballs the same size. I used a Tablespoon to scoop equal portions of meat before shaping the meatballs. This kept everything the same size and made grilling the meatballs for doneness easier (especially with timing).
 
How else can I cook the meatballs?
If you do not own a BBQ oven, you can cook the meatballs 3 other ways, just know that the meatball’s texture will vary slightly based on your choice of cooking method:
  1. Oven-baked: Preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C). Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and spray it with oil. Place meatballs 1 inch apart on the tray. Bake 15 – 20 minutes or until internal temperature registers 165°F (74°C) on a food thermometer.
  2. Pan-fried: Heat a large nonstick pan on medium-high heat with 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil. Pan-fry meatballs in a single layer without overcrowding the pan for 5 – 7 minutes, then flip and fry for another 5 – 7 minutes. If the meatballs are still pink on the inside, then cook them for another minute or until fully cooked through.
  3. Air-fried: Preheat air fryer to 400°F (204°C). Place meatballs 1 inch apart in a single layer in your air fryer basket and air fry meatballs for 10 – 15 minutes until fully cooked.
 
Helpful Tips:
  • To mix ground pork lightly and evenly, I use my hand like a ‘claw’ and ‘stir’ the meat until everything is combined.
  • Not sure if the meat is seasoned to your liking? Scoop a tablespoon of the meat into a heat-proof dish and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Taste and season it with more fish sauce or brown sugar to your preference.
  • Confused about minced lemongrass? You can read more about it here. You can use fresh or frozen minced lemongrass for this recipe.
Your Own Digital Notes
Nutrition Facts
Grilled Vietnamese Pork Meatballs (with Garlic and Lemongrass)
Serving Size
 
1 meatball
Amount per Serving
Calories
135
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
10
g
15
%
Saturated Fat
 
4
g
25
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
4
g
Cholesterol
 
34
mg
11
%
Sodium
 
245
mg
11
%
Potassium
 
155
mg
4
%
Carbohydrates
 
3
g
1
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
2
g
2
%
Protein
 
8
g
16
%
Vitamin A
 
4
IU
0
%
Vitamin C
 
1
mg
1
%
Calcium
 
11
mg
1
%
Iron
 
1
mg
6
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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