Recipe Road Test: Sweet and Spicy Meatballs with Nam Prik Pao

Seira Wilson on February 20, 2019

NamPrikPao_225W.jpg Red Hot Kitchen is a unique cookbook that covers the nine main sauces used in Asian cooking, tells you how to make them yourself, and then supplies recipes to put the sauces to work.   I love meatballs and I love spicy sauces, so this recipe in the nam prik pao chapter is a match made in heaven for me.

The recipe serves 4-6 as an appetizer but I paired them with a simple stir fried noodle and called it dinner for two. Salty and sweet with just the right amount of lingering heat, the rich flavor was even more pronounced the next day--one of the best leftover lunches I've had in a long time... The dish was easy to put together and I liked that the final cook was in the oven which means time to clean off the stove or make cocktails.

Here's how my sweet and spicy meatballs looked before and after cooking.  I used a cookie scoop to form them but as you can see my rolling skills still need some work. Honestly though, after cooking and coating with the glaze of goodness, these meatballs smelled so amazing I couldn't have cared less that they were a little misshapen...

SweetSpicyMeatballs_Raw.jpg SweetSpicyMeatballs_cooked.jpg

I may have to invite people over for a party soon just as an excuse to try these as an appetizer.  

*Red Hot Kitchen is a Best Cookbook of the Month selection for February


The streets of Bangkok’s Chinatown are a meatball lover’s paradise. Vendors sell Chinese-Thai beef or pork meatballs on skewers, in congee, or in noodle soups. For parties at home, single meatball servings make for great appetizers. While nam prik pao is used as a glaze or dip for skewered Thai meatballs, I like to also mix it into the meat so you get all that umami goodness in every bite. For the juiciest meatballs, ask your butcher for a fattier ground pork mix.

1 pound ground pork
3 scallions, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons nam prik pao
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white or black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted white sesame seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the pork, scallions, garlic, ginger, ¼ cup nam prik pao, the coriander, salt, pepper, eggs, and panko until evenly mixed. With your hands, form the mixture into meatballs the size of golf balls or ping-pong balls (about 1½ inches in diameter).

3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the meatballs on all sides. Transfer the meatballs to the baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Cut one open to check for doneness.

4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepot, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons nam prik pao, honey, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. Simmer over medium heat until the liquid thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

5. Once the meatballs are done, transfer to a serving dish. Brush the meatballs with the glaze. If serving as hors d’oeuvres, stick a toothpick in each meatball. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and extra scallions on top and serve.

Reprinted from Red Hot Kitchen by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2019, Diana Kuan

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