Xiu Mai or Vietnamese meatballs are seen in Chinese and Khmer Krom cusine with some variation which is as much by the cook as by the style of cusine. Some versions have a crunch element added with the addition of Water Chestnuts whereas other versions are completely smooth allowing a very soft and spreadable product suitable for use as a soft terrine as a sandwhich filling. Some are enhanced with a final braise in a tomato based sauce another and others in a caramel sauce. Northern Vietnam variations will often add a BBQ cooking period to the process to add in that wonderful BBQ flavour.

All recipes have an addition of sugar  or caramel and the ubiquitous fish sauce and black pepper. Garlic and shallots or onions are a common ingredient.

 Ingredients:
  • Fish sauce (Nuoc Mam) 2 Tbsp
  • 1 kg minced pork
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 4 red shallots.
  • 4 green onions
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper.
  • Caramel Sauce (Nuoc mau: pre-prepared for convenience)

Method:
  1. Prepare your caramel sauce and put this aside.
  2. Squash and dice the garlic.
  3. Dice the shallots and finely slice the green onions to the end of the core (somewhere where it begins to turn green)
  4. In a bowl mix the ground meat, shallots, green onions, garlic, pepper and fish sauce. Mix until fairly uniformly blended.
  5. Roll dollops of the mixture into 4 cm balls and place aside.
  6. Grease or oil a pan and heat this to a moderate temperature suitable for frying the meatballs.
  7. Place the meatballs in the pan and fry these carefully to retain their shape and to firm up. Final cooking will follow so complete cooking is not important. I mentioned the optinal additional BBQ cooking step and this may be added here. The par-cooked meatballs can be placed in a spring-form BBQ holder without squashing the meatballs and searing the balls carefully over a smokey charcoal BBQ. Then continue on.
  8. Remove the meatballs when adequately cooked and place them into a saucepan and add a quarter to half a cup of caramel sauce plus a half cup of water.
  9. Heat over a low flame and allow to reduce for about an hour. Watch the liquid level and add small amounts of water if it threatens to dry. Ideally you want about a quarter cup of the sauces at the end of the process. The sauce can be further seasoned with salt if desired but the addition of salt if preferred to the final served product by the diner is a reasonable option.
  10. The meatballs can be cooled and refrigerated if required or frozen in batches with a little of the sauce.
  11. The final consistency is somewhere between the spreadability of a pate and the firmness of a terrine, but easily spread as part of the filling composite of a Banh Mi Xiu Mai sandwhich.