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Pork Meatball Rice Bowls

Pork Meatball Rice Bowls

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If you’ve never used fish sauce before, this recipe is a great place to start. It’s a magical, salty, umami-packed condiment that truly shines when paired with other bold, flavorful ingredients like vinegar, chiles, and garlic. In this recipe, it's doing double-duty—both as a seasoning in the meatball mixture and as a part of the finishing sauce.



  1. Before we dig into the rest of this recipe, let's make a perfect pot of rice. (No shade on your rice cooker if you've got one, but everyone should know how to make a pot on the stovetop.) First, rinse 2 cups basmati rice in a fine-mesh sieve until water runs clear, at least 60 seconds. (Alternatively, you can rinse the rice in a bowl in several changes of cold water—whatever feels easiest to you.) Combine rice, 1 tsp. salt, and 2½ cups water in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover pot with lid and reduce heat to low, aiming for the lowest possible flame. Cook rice without uncovering, 18 minutes. Let stand at least 15 minutes, or until ready to use.

  2. Let's make a dressing! Cut 3 limes in half and squeeze juice into a medium bowl. Cut remaining 1 lime into wedges and set aside for serving. Cut off and discard stem of 1 serrano chile. Thinly slice crosswise, then finely chop and add to bowl. Using a Microplane, finely grate 1 large garlic clove into bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. sugar, 1 Tbsp. fish sauce, and 1 cup water and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning for salt.

  3. Peel 3 medium carrots (no need to peel the cucumbers). Cut carrots and 2 Persian cucumbers thinly on a diagonal and add to bowl with dressing. Let sit to lightly pickle while you make your meatballs.

  4. Place a rack in top third of oven. Heat broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Lightly grease foil with vegetable oil.

  5. Time to make the meatballs! Thinly slice 6 scallions crosswise. Transfer white and light green parts to a medium bowl; reserve darker parts for garnishing later on. Finely chop stems of 1 small bunch cilantro and add to bowl along with pork. (Reserve cilantro leaves for serving.) Finely grate 1 1" piece ginger and remaining 2 garlic cloves into bowl. Add 1 lb. ground pork and remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1 Tbsp. fish sauce, and 1 tsp. salt. Work together with your hands just until well combined—you don't want to overwork your meatballs, otherwise they'll become tough.

  6. Form pork mixture into twelve 1½" balls. Arrange on prepared baking sheet.

  7. Broil meatballs, rotating pan halfway through, until browned on top and just cooked through, 7–8 minutes.

  8. Uncover and fluff cooked rice with a fork. Divide among bowls. Top with meatballs and some of the pickled veggies.

  9. Garnish with reserved dark scallion parts and cilantro leaves. Serve lime wedges and any remaining sauce alongside for dipping and drizzling.

Reviews SectionI found the directions so much fun to cook with that I didn't even bother to prepare my ingredients ahead of time, which is a new system for me. I knew that I had everything I needed to make the dish, but the simplistic and clear directions were a great way to venture forth with this recipe. I cooked the meatballs on the second top tier for 6 minutes under the broiler and then moved them up to the top for another 5 and they were amazing. I think I'll reduce the amount of water in the pickling liquid next time but otherwise it was a spectacular success. Great meatballs, ya meatball!AnonymousRedwood City, CA 05/11/20Delicious. Looking at the picture of this recipe I thought the only tasty thing would be the meatballs, but boy was I wrong. The pickled carrots and cucumbers were delicious, and the dressing was an amazing topping for the entire bowl. Of course, the meatballs were great as well. Didn't have fish sauce so I used a sub of half soy sauce/half white wine vinegar, and replaced the serrano chile with some cayenne powder.freshquinoaOntario, Canada05/06/20OK, to those who are offended because BA did not "credit " Vietnamese cuisine for the recipe, I have a somewhat different take. I think this is an effort not to talk down to the reader. Presumably, most of us who read BA are reasonably sophisticated about food. My guess is the vast majority recognize this as a Vietnamese dish. How would you feel if they accompanied a recipe for tacos with a brief explanations that "tacos are a dish that is popular in the country of Mexico"? You would think you had been transported back to the 1950s. BA is simply being appropriate for the times.AnonymousNorthern California04/09/20Delicious! I made as directed with exception of adding some leftover red cabbage into the pickling liquid (my carrots and cucs are fuscia now, and I’m not sorry). I made this for my lunches this week, and I can tell I will be tapping my foot impatiently, waiting for my lunch break each day.Hannah HellevangMoorhead, MN01/20/20I found an amazing hot sweet sauce that introduced me to fish sauce. So this was a have to try. I am surprised that people would rate this recipe a 1 because of it not stating it was of Vietnamese origin. That has nothing to do with the recipe itself or its great taste. Maybe everyone could be a little less touchy and more on to the Yea! Category of life and read a recipe or an article for its value and celebrate the result. Looking for reasons to be offended just makes others say “REALLY??!?” This is a fun, recipe sharing website...How did you get off track? Cook and be happy!!Grammag8CALIFORNIA12/15/19This was a hit among my family, including a sorta-picky 6 year old. The broiler wasn't getting the color I wanted on the meatballs so I actually switched to sauteeing the meatballs on the stove top. The sugar in the recipe gave a nice caramelization that I was NOT getting in the oven. I suspect I didn't preheat the broiler quite long enough before popping them in.I ran out of limes, so my sauce was a combo of lime and lemon, and it worked really well. Also didn't have fresh cilantro, so I subbed fresh parsley in the meat, and a little ground coriander. Definitely will make again. Would be great piled onto a sub, like a Banh Mi.AnonymousIndianapolis, IN12/06/19The ginger in the meatballs is amazing. I didn’t grate the ginger but cut them in small julienne sticks to really get some ginger explosions as you’re eating. I let the rice cool down a little bit until lukewarm to get a nice contrast between the zingy cold pickled veggies, the lukewarm rice and the oven hot meatballs. Ate the leftovers the next day without reheating, still amazing.JonathanVLBelgium09/30/19SO GOOD! I actually made it with ground turkey instead of pork and doubled the recipe. I forgot to double the amount of fish sauce in the meat mixture and it was still delicious. Definitely putting this recipe in my dinner rotation!AnonymousNashville, TN07/09/19Incredible recipe, super flavorful and very easy to make. Make sure to credit the Vietnamese origin of dishes like this in the future, as other reviewers have stated.Anonymouscolorado06/03/19AnonymousNew York05/31/19People make food from other cultures all the time - it doesn’t get weird until you TAKE a Vietnamese recipe and refuse to give credit. Just say it’s a Vietnamese recipe!kaybrinckBay Area05/29/19This recipe is not reminiscent of nuoc cham- it IS the traditional recipe for nuoc cham. It should not be too much to ask that a recipe created by a non-Viet person at least give credit to the culture it is clearly borrowing from.AnonymousWestminster, CA05/29/19This is Vietnamese nuoc chamAnonymousGarden Grove, CA05/29/19Delicious! I've made this twice this month. super easy and flavorful. Highly recommend you try this dish! It makes a GREAT work lunch the next day.Note: I would appreciate some credit towards Vietnamese cooking here. The sauce is a staple of Vietnamese cooking and this recipe doesn't mention it at all.AnonymousPortland, Ore05/26/19Good flavours. I used calrose rice instead of basmati. I don't think this is the right place for basmati! A shorter grain offers a better foil against the strong flavours.The carrots were too hard after the suggested 'pickling' time. Next time I will mandoline or spiralize them so they aren't so crunchy. I served it with lots of boston bibb lettuce leaves and will do that again. I'll try chicken next time.I suggest that the reason this recipe isn't framed as an authentic Vietnamese dish isn't because Bon Appetit and its staff are culturally insensitive, but because claiming this as Vietnamese would be much, much worse. These combinations are definitely reminiscent of Vietnamese cuisine but I fail to understand why anyone would be outraged by this, especially not by the word "pickling." Pick your battles.It’s odd to see a recipe that is essentially classic Vietnamese food- pork and rice with pickled vegetables and cilantro with nuoc cham- give absolutely NO reference to Vietnamese cuisine. The “pickling” liquid is not a pickling liquid or a dressing- it is nuoc cham, which is a recipe already used by virtually every Vietnamese person already living and one of the most important staples of Vietnamese cuisine. It is important to give credit to the cuisines you borrow from, especially when your borrowing is so similar to the original it can be mistaken for copying. Vietnamese cuisine and culture is still largely underrepresented in the US and most Asian cuisines are not revered as “gourmet” in the way Western cuisines like French cuisine are. I am certain many people saw this recipe and had no idea it has ties to Vietnamese cuisine. Please give credit where credit is due.Absolutely loved this recipe and can’t wait to make it again! I agree with the other comments and would bump up the acidity in the pickling liquid, but otherwise thought this recipe was perfect.AnonymousPhiladelphia, PA05/21/19This was delicious! Followed the recipe to a T and ended up with something really spectacular. The meatballs really are the star. I feel like the picked veg could use a touch more acid so next time I might use a dash of rice vinegar or something of the like. Otherwise really really great.ViabrwnSt. Louis, MO 05/18/19Really, really good. Made it as the recipe calls for and just added radishes and sesame seeds to the bowl as well. Thanks Molly!AnonymousMinneapolis05/14/19Delicious! Made with glass noodles instead of rice. Fantastic dinner!I also used ground chicken instead of pork and brown rice instead of basmati , but otherwise followed the recipe to a tee. The process took over two hours for me but mostly because I had to manually grind the chicken breast. The flavor is amazing and I definitely want to make this again. Already had all of the ingredients at home.I might follow some other people's suggestions and use rice vinegar instead of lime juice as the pickles could've been a bit stronger. Great recipe, thanks!alinalaowaiKansas05/13/19Great recipe. I used ground chicken instead of pork. I make a lot of different meatballs, and my boyfriend deemed these the best ones yet!AnonymousPortland, OR05/09/19The seasoning for the meatballs is spot on! I didn't really measure anything but just eyeballed it, still turned out great. I used what I had in my kitchen: ground chicken instead of pork, kale instead of carrots, ground ginger instead of fresh. I also added sesame oil to the meatballs and sauteed them instead of broiling. I didn't have limes so I used unflavored rice vinegar in the pickling liquid. Drained the pickling liquid, added a little more sugar and used as a sauce over the bowls. Also added roasted poblano and roasted red&white onion to the bowl b/c they were in my fridge and about to go bad. This recipe cost me zero extra dollars - a lot of pantry ingredients for me. Good job Molly, will 100% make again.DarrahPState College, PA05/08/19

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