Chinese Pork and Shrimp Balls with Spicy Asian Dipping Sauce

Sure, there’s a time and place for the package of frozen meatballs doused with bottled barbecue sauce simmering in a slow cooker. But with the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics coming up (not to mention the Academy Awards in early March), you’ll want to step up your game.

These little gems are ideal for parties. They’re easy to make ahead and can be steamed at the last minute when your guests arrive (or fry in a pan). Serve them warm or at room temperature—never cold, notes their creator, meat expert and cookbook author Bruce Aidells.

You can also use this mixture as a filling for wontons, pot stickers, or other Chinese dumplings, suggests Bruce. For a real treat, make a sandwich by stuffing the meatballs into a soft baguette, garnish with shredded vegetables, and dress with a little of the dipping sauce. (If you can’t find a soft baguette for the sandwich, you can use French rolls. If using baguettes, cut into 4- to 6-inch pieces.) To make them into a soup, make a simple pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) by adding these meatballs to chicken broth with rice noodles and garnish with cilantro and fresh bean sprouts. (Recipe from Real Food.)

If everyone is wrapped up in the delicious food maybe they won’t care who wins!

Chinese Pork and Shrimp Balls with Spicy Asian Dipping Sauce

Makes 6 servings

¾ lb. ground pork
¼ lb. peeled shrimp, coarsely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. minced ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic
½ tsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
½ tsp. Asian sesame oil
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 green onions, white and green parts finely chopped
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ c. fresh or canned water chestnuts (or jicama), finely chopped

Put all ingredients in a bowl. With moistened hands, kneed and squeeze mixture until well combined. Roll into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange in 1 layer on a heatproof dish that will fit in your steamer (you may need 2 dishes depending on the size of your steamer). Meatballs can be refrigerated up to 8 hours, covered, before steaming.*

Prepare a steamer with water and bring to a boil. Put dish into steamer tray and cook 10 to 15 minutes over boiling water or until meatballs are firm and cooked through.

Serve hot with Spicy Asian Dipping Sauce. (Recipe below)

*Note: Instead of steaming the meatballs, you can pan fry them. Simply fry in a large, nonstick frying pan in a little peanut oil over medium-high heat until all sides are nicely browned, about 10 minutes.

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) Chinese Pork & Shrimp Balls with Spicy Asian Dipping Sauce: CALORIES 164 (86 from fat); FAT 10g (sat. 3g); CHOL 96mg; SODIUM 871mg; CARB 4g; FIBER 0g; PROTEIN 15g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.