I’ve become the kind of person (a grandmother, perhaps; you can say it) who always implores you to stay for dinner. But it’s less benevolent than it sounds. I mean, yes, absolutely I’d love your company and not just because it will provide a welcome break from our usual dinner conversations of “Please take a bite. Of anything.” “No, I promise, that’s not a parsley fleck.” Or “But you liked roasted carrots last week!” And not just because I’ve found it takes 47 group texts to make dinner plans but if I say “just swing by at 6,” the answer is far more often a simple “Yes!” Not just because it’s part of my ongoing ulterior agenda to make entertaining less fussy — nobody is imagining you’d bring out a tray of hor d’oeuvres on a Tuesday night, thus nobody has to be disappointed that that will literally never happen — and therefore a more frequent thing in our lives. And not just because once you’re already making dinner, accounting for a serving or two extra is barely a hurdle.
Or, it’s not exclusively for these reasons. Mostly, I find it makes weeknight cooking more fun. I usually use it as an excuse to try something new that is maybe a step more effort than I’d usually put in, not entirely sure my family will receive it with the standing ovation and outpouring of gratitude that I believe each and every one of my cooking efforts are owed. (I’m kidding. Probably.)
It’s one of these evenings a couple years ago that led me to this soup. It seemed to have an element for everyone. Meatballs go over well with both kids and adults, keep well (when dinner isn’t going to start on time), and warm up well when there are leftovers. The broth is rich and quick; no bag of food scraps or chicken bones required. We served it with rice on the side, so that people who wanted to could add as much as they wanted (ahem, kids) and people who were not eating rice could skip it and still have a great soup. I couldn’t find lemongrass that day and added some spinach instead, but ended up keeping the spinach in in later rounds. We served it with lightly pickled red chiles, fresh mint and cilantro, and a lot of lime on the side and it was so good, I’ve made it many times since.
How rude of me to hold out on you, then. I’d hoped to give it more context, but didn’t get terribly far. The flavors here are reminiscent of a Thai green curry — green curry paste often includes chiles chiles, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, makrut lime, and cilantro — but also a jok, if the rice was cooked long enough to get porrige-y. Eggs might be added too. In reality, it’s more of a simplified mash-up of all of the above, and it’s wildly delicious. I hope you love it too.
I’ve made these before with a mixture of chicken and pork and it works just fine. If you can find it, one stalk of lemongrass, outer leaves removed and cut into 1-inch lengths, is a great addition here; add it with the ginger and garlic to the broth and remove it at the same time. I always add a bit of greens to this recipe. Baby spinach is the quickest. Since it’s May, thinly sliced asparagus or trimmed asparagus in 1-inch segments would be wonderful. Add chiles to taste; two are called for. I often just put a few slices in (because: kids), and then marinate the rest in a little vinegar, setting them out to be spooned on top by those who want more heat.
- 2 pounds ground pork
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- One 13 1/2-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced peeled fresh ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 fresh red chiles, thinly sliced, plus extra for serving (see Note)
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lime
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Kosher salt
- A few handfuls of baby spinach
- Roughly chopped fresh mint and cilantro leaves
- Additional lime wedges
- Steamed jasmine rice (I estimate about 1/4 cup cooked per serving)
Make the meatballs: Preheat your oven to 425°. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl; I like to do so with a fork or potato masher. Form the mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs (I used this scoop) and arrange them on a large rimmed baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Bake until the meatballs are golden brown and just cooked through, about 12 to 14 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the broth: In a large, ideally wide, saucepan, combine the coconut milk, stock, ginger, garlic, chiles (to taste), lime zest and juice, fish sauce, turmeric, and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat so the broth is simmering. Simmer 10 minutes, until the flavors are infused into the broth. You can leave everything in, but I like to remove everything with a skimmer for a smooth broth. Season to taste, if needed, with salt. Add the meatballs to the broth, return to a simmer, cover, and simmer until cooked through and tender, about 10 to 15 more minutes. Add spinach and cook just to wilt. Season the broth with more sugar, salt and lime juice if necessary. Serve with herbs, additional chiles, lime wedges, and rice.
Do Ahead: The uncooked meatballs can be refrigerated on a baking sheet for up to one day. The broth can also be prepared in advanced; it will keep for three days.
Last modified: May 30, 2019