Authentic Vietnamese meatball recipe

Authentic Vietnamese meatball recipe

Today we're going to indulge our taste buds in sweet and savoury Vietnamese meatballs - Xiu Mai. A hearty and delightful dish, perfect for those chilly months. With a combination of flavorful spices and a moist texture, these meatballs are sure to please even the most demanding eaters. The ideal choice to share with your family and friends. The icing on the cake? A fresh and warm baguette to complete your comfort meal. Try out this authentic Vietnamese meatball recipe to take your meatball sub to a whole new level.


Dad's special recipe

In our family, my parents each have their own spin on Vietnamese dishes. However, when it came to this meatball recipe, my dad's version always reigned supreme. While my mom is usually the one in charge of cooking, this recipe was one of my dad's specialties that we always looked forward to. Along with his perfectly crispy BBQ pork, these meatballs were a family favourite, and I'm thrilled to share the authentic recipe with all of you.

Elevating Your Meatball Sub Experience with a Vietnamese Twist

Experience the ultimate meatball dish like never before with this Vietnamese twist on a classic favorite. This authentic recipe combines ground pork with a flavorful blend of spices and seasonings, creating meatballs that are rich and juicy. Sauteed onions add depth and sweetness to the mixture, complementing the savory notes perfectly. The tangy and savory tomato-based sauce, simmered to perfection with fish sauce and chicken bouillon, completes the dish. Serve on a fresh baguette, garnished with cilantro and cracked black pepper, for a satisfying texture combination and added burst of freshness and aroma.

vietnamese meatballs

 Vietnamese cuisine is known for its vibrant flavours and fresh ingredients, and this recipe is no exception. These meatballs are made with ground pork, which adds a rich and juicy texture that will have you craving more. The secret to their mouthwatering flavour lies in the combination of spices and seasonings, including chicken bouillon, fish sauce, and a touch of garlic powder. Don't worry about overpowering garlic breath – the garlic powder ensures a subtle yet delightful taste.

holding a plate of meatballs

cooking meatballs

To achieve the perfect balance of flavours, I highly recommend sautéing chopped onions before adding them to the meatball mixture. This simple step adds depth and sweetness to the meatballs, complementing the savoury notes beautifully.

Substituting Jicama in Your Vietnamese Meatballs

While jicama is often used in Vietnamese cuisine for its mild, sweet flavour and crunchy texture, it may not be readily available for everyone. But don't worry! Water chestnuts make for an excellent substitution.

Water chestnuts have a similar crunchy texture to jicama, and like jicama, they don't have an overpowering taste, allowing them to easily absorb the flavours of the dish they're added to. When substituting water chestnuts for jicama, you can use the same amount as the recipe calls for jicama.

Simply chop the water chestnuts into small pieces and add them to the meatball mixture. The water chestnuts will add a delightful crunch to each bite, making your Vietnamese meatballs even more irresistible. Give it a try, and let the flavors dance on your palate!

The sauce

But what truly sets this Vietnamese meatball sub apart is the sauce. Made with tomatoes, fish sauce, and a touch of chicken bouillon, the sauce is simmered to perfection, creating a tangy and savoury accompaniment that will leave you wanting more. For an added touch of sweetness, a touch of sugar brings the flavours together in harmony.

saucy meatballs

To enjoy this Vietnamese twist on a meatball sub, I recommend serving it on a fresh baguette. The crusty exterior of the baguette perfectly complements the tender and flavourful meatballs, creating a satisfying texture combination. Don't forget to garnish with cilantro and cracked black pepper for an added burst of freshness and aroma.

Whether you're a fan of Vietnamese recipes or simply looking to spice up your Asian recipe repertoire, this Vietnamese meatball sub is guaranteed to leave your taste buds begging for more. Get ready to experience the ultimate meatball sub like never before!

Taste test as you go

Before you finalize your batch of delicious meatballs, it's essential to make sure the seasoning is just right. Take a small portion of your meatball mixture and pan-fry it to get a sneak peek of the final taste. If you find that the flavor lacks depth or balance, feel free to adjust the seasoning to your preference. Remember, the meatballs should strike a harmonious balance between sweet and savory to truly encapsulate the essence of this Vietnamese delicacy. So, don't hesitate to add a pinch more salt or a sprinkle more sugar until you achieve that perfect sweet-savory symphony that will make your taste buds dance with joy!

Let's dive into the ingredients!


For the meatballs, you will need:

  • 1.5 lbs of ground pork (regular, not lean)
  • 1 can water chestnuts (diced)
  • 1 tsp of chicken bouillon
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 whole onions (chopped and sautéed)
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • 2 tsp of tapioca starch or corn starch
  • 2 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • 2-3 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro stems (or dried cilantro)
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

And for the sauce:

  • 4-5 tomatoes or 1-1.5 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 1 tsp of chicken bouillon
  • 4-5 tsp of sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • Cornstarch slurry (2 tsp of tapioca or corn starch mixed with 2 tbsp of warm water)


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground pork, chicken bouillon, egg, sautéed onions, sugar, tapioca starch, fish sauce, garlic powder, salt, cilantro stems, and cracked black pepper. Mix everything together until well combined.
  2. Shape the mixture into meatballs.
  3. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the meatballs and sear them until they develop a char on the outside. This should only take a couple of minutes. The goal is to get a bit of that char flavor on the meatball before stewing them in the sauce.
  4. Remove the meatballs from the pan and set them aside.
  5. In the same pan, add diced tomatoes, fish sauce, chicken bouillon, sugar, and salt. Stir everything together.
  6. Add the seared meatballs back into the pan, along with a bit of water and the sautéed onions, including all the juices at the bottom of the pan.
  7. Gently mix everything together, being careful not to break the meatballs.
  8. Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook on medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes.
  9. Right before you are ready to serve, add a cornstarch or tapioca slurry to the sauce to thicken it. Mix well until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.
  10. Garnish with fresh cilantro / coriander, cracked pepper and serve this with a warm baguette. 

Now, it's time to serve up and dive in! Immerse your baguette into the luscious meatballs and sauce— and don't worry about getting your hands dirty; there's truly no right or wrong way to savor this delightful dish. You might prefer to craft a scrumptious sub, topping it off with pickled radishes, carrots, and fresh cilantro. Or simply enjoy the meatballs and sauce on their own. The world is your culinary playground, so relish every bite to your heart's content. Until next time. YOMM!!

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