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Vietnamese Chicken Meatballs

Vietnamese Chicken Meatballs
William Herbert Mathews, ca 1920


          In my family, the only person who could express any food dislikes was my Father.  He had a couple of them.  But as children, any misgivings we had about what to eat were not paid any attention to. You ate what was put in front of you.   That was particularly true if you chose something from a menu and then claimed not to have understood what you were ordering.  You ate it or you went hungry.   Now, when I see a fussy eater or a child whose diet is seemingly limited to a single item, repeated night after night, plate after plate, I really feel sorry for the kid. I don’t know what makes a picky eater but I think a lot of parents are enablers.  They’ll do anything to avoid mealtime meltdowns even if it means some very questionable eating habits and the poor nutrition that results from them.   But of all the questionable kid’s meals that I’ve seen, aside from those really terrible ‘Lunchables’, the chicken nugget frightens me the most.  Is it really chicken?  Where does it come from?  Breaded and fried, dipped into sugary sauces of one flavor or another, how good can it be to eat these things on a regular–let alone daily–basis?  But there are ways of weaning children off the nuggets and onto something that will open their budding palates to flavors they might actually enjoy.  And since you control what goes into these fantastically tasty morsels, you can then control what’s goes into your child.  Introducing…Vietnamese Meat Balls!
Mason and Zoey, Photo by Kym

Before you say ‘that will be too spicy and hot and my child will never eat them’, I can assure you that is not the case.  I just came back from a visit with my son and his family in California.  One night, I made this for dinner and the two children I was serving, my grandson Mason and his friend Zoey, loved every bite of these wonderful chicken treats. As did their parents. My daughter-in-law asked me to give her the recipe.  And why not?  The dominant taste is one of sweetness.   In fact the balls are rolled in brown sugar and what child is going to shy away from that?  They make a perfect slider in those neat little Martin’s potato rolls. And they also make a great  hors d’oeuvres for grown-ups, which is how they’re shown here.  So what’s dinner for the children, is wonderful with drinks for you and your guests. 

 This is a recipe from a woman named Jennifer Joyce from her book “Small Bites”.  I found it in Food and Wine magazine a few years ago.  Aside from the lemongrass, everything ingredient is supermarket- available.  And even lemongrass seems to be showing up there fairly frequently.  They take all of a half hour to make and 15 minutes to cook.  There are enough in this recipe to serve 4. 

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