Kimchee Meatballs

To Know:

I set out to accomplish two things while creating this recipe: 1) use up the last of the homemade kimchee I made last summer and 2) experiment with an idea I had for a gluten-free meatball using a certain secret ingredient…that secret ingredient being crispy rice cereal (wink, wink). Technically, there were 3 things, but being edible should go without saying…should, anyhow. But meatballs aren’t as easy as one would think, it’s all about finding the right type of ground meat and balance of ingredients to wind up with something not too heavy or crumbly, too greasy or too dry, too bland or too overwhelming. Fortunately, the results were as good, if not better than I had hoped…light and airy, perfectly textured meatballs bursting with the flavors of slightly spicy kimchee, garlic and ginger.

This recipe is great for an easy weeknight meal, I like to serve these meatballs with some brown rice and a steamer bag of stir-fry veggies. The dipping sauce adds an extra bit of zing and is a perfect accompaniment if you want to serve these as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. While I used homemade kimchee this time, store bought is fine and is probably what I’ll use in the future. Don’t eat pork? Play around with different meats to see which works best for you. If using poultry, I would just make sure the meat is not too lean so that they don’t dry out while baking. Ground beef would also be good, but make sure you don’t overmix, as beef will get tough if you handle it too much. Further, don’t stress about finding gochugaru or gochujang, sriracha is a fine substitute in this instance. Unless you want to explore Korean cooking more, spend that money on a tasty bottle of soju instead. The goal is to use what you have and only buy what you’ll use, leaving more money and opportunity to play with your food.

To Get:

For the Meatballs:

1/2  cup kimchee, chopped

3  scallions, chopped

1  tablespoon garlic, grated or minced

1/2  tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or minced

1  teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce (double check the label if making gluten free)

1  teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1  tablespoon gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes) or 1 teaspoon sriracha, optional

1  egg, beaten

1  pound ground pork

1  cup crispy rice cereal

Cooking spray

For the Optional Spicy Mayo Dipping Sauce:

1/2  cup light mayonnaise

1  teaspoon gochujang (spicy Korean BBQ-type sauce) or sriracha

1/2  teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1  teaspoon rice vinegar

1/2  teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce

To Do:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the kimchee, scallions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, gochugaru/sriracha and egg.
  2. Stir in the pork until well mixed. You do not have to worry about over-mixing ground pork as you would ground beef.
  3. Gently fold in the crispy rice cereal (and yes, they do snap, crackle and pop). Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or longer. This allows the mixture to firm up, which will make rolling the meatballs much easier.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray a baking sheet or mini-muffin tin with the cooking spray. I like to put foil down on my baking sheets first, before using the cooking spray, to make clean-up easier later on. If your pans are nonstick, you can probably skip the spray, up to you.
  5. Using a tablespoon or tablespoon-size scooper, portion and round your meatballs. They will be about the size of a walnut and should make 24. Place one in each mini-muffin cup or space evenly around the baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.
  7. In the meantime, you can make a quick dipping sauce (if you choose), by combining the mayo, gochujang/sriracha, sesame oil, rice vinegar and soy sauce in small bowl. Set aside.
  8. Once the meatballs have finished baking, let rest 5 minutes. Garnish with sliced scallions and/or toasted sesame seeds (if you wish) before serving and noshing.

Makes approximately 24 meatballs

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