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Thai Turkey Meatballs


Who doesn’t like meatballs? (Well, apart from vegetarians, of course.) Meatballs have always been a favorite atop spaghetti (even inspiring a “classic” song) or smothered in barbecue sauce (a bag of frozen meatballs, bottle of BBQ sauce and—voila—instant appetizer. Bring on the toothpicks and serve.). There are even meatball-centric restaurants rolling out a great array of the popular orbs, albeit usually more gourmet than the aforementioned. Nearly every global cuisine has its own take on meatballs. They’re essentially easy, budget-friendly, and versatile. 

These exotic-flavored meatballs couldn’t be easier to make. By using a store-bought Thai green curry paste, all the guesswork for the seasoning is eliminated, notes meat expert and cookbook author Bruce Aidells, who developed this recipe for Real Food. Because there are many brands of Thai green curry paste (which all vary in saltiness and spiciness), it is best to start with less and add more to taste. Simply fry up a little sample patty of the meat mixture and add more green curry paste and salt to suit your taste. Maybe you’ll feel a new take of the meatball song coming on.

Spicy Thai Turkey Meatballs

Makes 6 servings

4 shiitake mushrooms
1½ lbs. ground turkey (preferably dark meat)
2 tsp. minced ginger
2 tsp. Thai green curry paste, or more to taste
2 Tbsp. Asian fish sauce (nam pla nuoc nam; substitute soy sauce with a dash of Worcestershire sauce or anchovy paste if desired)
1 tsp. sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
¹⁄3 c. green onions, white and green parts finely chopped
¼ c. chopped cilantro
salt to taste
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 recipe Spicy Asian Dipping Sauce (optional, see recipe below)

Pour boiling water over mushrooms to cover and soak at least 30 minutes (up to 3 hours) to soften. Remove and discard stems, and finely chop mushrooms.

In a medium bowl, combine mushrooms, turkey, ginger, curry paste, fish sauce, sugar, egg, green onions, and cilantro. Fry up a sample and taste. Add more curry paste and salt to taste. Mix until well blended and form into 1-inch meatballs.

Heat peanut oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs and cook until all sides are nicely browned, about 10 minutes total. Serve as is or with Asian Dipping Sauce; replace ¹⁄3 cup soy sauce with ¹⁄3 cup Asian fish sauce.

Curry option
You can also serve these meatballs in a Thai green curry sauce. Once meatballs are done, remove from pan and set aside. Add ½ cup finely chopped onions and 1 teaspoon minced garlic to the fat in the pan. Over medium heat, stir mixture until soft, about 5 minutes. Add a 13½-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk and scrape up any brown bits from bottom of pan. Whisk in 2 or more tablespoons Thai green curry paste and ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice. Taste and add curry paste and lime juice to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and add back meatballs. Simmer 5 minutes.

Transfer to a serving bowl or chafing dish. Garnish with 12 to 15 fresh basil leaves. Serve over rice or as an hors d’oeuvre.

Spicy Asian Dipping Sauce

Makes about ¾ cup

¹⁄3 c. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
½ tsp. sesame oil
½ to 1 tsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. minced green onions
¼ c. chopped cilantro leaves (optional)
1 to 2 tsp. Asian chile sauce, such as Chinese chile/garlic paste or Thai chili sauce (Sriracha)

Stir soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, brown sugar, and green onions together in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Stir in optional cilantro, and add chile sauce to taste.

Nutrition info (per serving) Spicy Thai Turkey Meatballs: CALORIES 233 (123 from fat); FAT 14g (sat. 4g); CHOL 95mg; SODIUM 597mg; CARB 3g; FIBER 1g; PROTEIN 23g

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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