Da Lat Spiced Meatballs

Makes about 12 meatballs or 2–3 servings. 

This recipe is inspired by the traditional Vietnamese dish Bun Cha: pork meatballs sitting atop a salad of julienned vegetables and rice vermicelli noodles, served with lots of fresh cilantro and Thai basil and a drizzle of nuoc cham sauce.

The meatballs can be pan fried or grilled over coals. They’re also great picnic food — make a batch a head and pack them up to take along!

1 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground white or black pepper
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 tablespoon (heaping) Da Lat Spice
2 tablespoons minced cilantro, stems included
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Combine all the ingredients, except the vegetable oil, in a large mixing bowl. Put the bowl into the fridge to to let the mixture firm up and the flavors meld, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Form the mixture into balls (about 1½ inches in diameter) and flatten each one slightly. Set a skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil. When the oil shimmers, add meatballs. Cook for about 3 minutes, then flip the meatballs over, cover the skillet, and cook until the center is done and the outside is lightly caramelized. Serve with rice noodles, fresh herbs, and nouc cham sauce.

For cooking on a grill, make the balls slightly larger and flatten them slightly. Brush the grate with oil, cook the meatballs for about 3 minutes on each side.

To make nouc cham sauce Whisk 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons fish sauce with 1 minced garlic clove, 1 minced fresh red chile, the juice of 1 lemon, and a ¼ cup water (or more, to taste).

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