Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thai Meatballs and Noodles

It's not just the German's and Italians that like to marry meatballs with sauce and noodles. The people of Thailand enjoy it, too.

I've been getting into Thai cooking more and more, of late. Having a good Thai restaurant just a few minutes away to inspire me doesn't hurt, either. Not living in Thailand, or a large city, it's hard to find the ingredients in the original Thai recipes I'm using as a base, or at least ingredients that don't cost and arm and a leg. I've modified the original recipe to make it easier to make with ingredients that are readily available at my local grocery store.

Equipment needed
Large skillet or wok
Kitchen knife
Large pot or Dutch oven

12 oz. dried, wide egg noodles
6 cups water
1 tablespoon salt

For the meatballs
1 1/2 pounds ground pork or beef
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
4 teaspoons fish sauce or low sodium soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon feel seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cooking oil (peanut or canola)

For the sauce
1 pound bok choy (about 1 medium-sized bunch)
Small piece of fresh ginger (about 1 inch) or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 medium carrot
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce or low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried mint

Make the meatballs, first. Combine the meat, basil, mint, ginger fish sauce, garlic, cinnamon, fennel and pepper in a large bowl. Mix until well blended. Shape the meat mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. You should be able to make around 30 of them.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until nicely brown all over and no pink is left in he middle. You'll need to do this in batches.

Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain the excess oil. The meatballs may be prepared in advance and refrigerated for up to 2 days, longer if you freeze them. Just make sure to thaw them before using.

Now you can start cooking the noodles. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the noodles and salt. Cook until al dente, and drain in a colander.

While the noodles are cooking, you can start on the sauce. Cut off the root end of the bok choy with a kitchen knife. Separate the stalks, rinse well under running water to remove any dirt or debris, and drain. Starting at the root end, cut the stalks and leaves into 1/2-inch slices and set aside.

Peel the fresh ginger piece, if using, and cut into julienne strips. Cut the carrot into 2-inch lengths, and cut into julienne strips, or half-moon slices. Set aside.

Heat the same skillet or wok you cooked the meat in (if you didn't prepare the meatballs in advance) over medium heat. Add the chicken stock, brown sugar, fish sauce, ginger and mint. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Add the cooked (and thawed if frozen) meatballs and carrots to the stock mixture. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the meatballs are heated through. Add the bok choy and simmer 4 or 5 minutes longer, until the stalks are crisp tender.

Once the noodles are done, drain and transfer them to a large serving dish and pour the meatball mixture on top. Garnish garnish as desired.

Makes 6 servings.

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