Thai meatballs with roasted eggplant & noodles in green curry broth

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These meatballs came in a flash of inspiration when I had a fridge full of herbs and had to use them. They taste kinda like spaghetti and meatballs with all the herby flavors of my mom’s kitchen and the comfort of a noodle soup bowl.

For me, these are pantry staple meatballs - all I had to get was the pork. However, I understand that kaffir lime leaves, which I get from my mom’s tree, aren’t readily accessible for most people (they go for a whopping $40/lb at my local Asian grocery store, which only carries them half the time). Galangal is also something I have to make a special trek to get, and I recognize that having lemongrass at my local Safeway may not be the norm. In the absence of these harder-to-find herbs, feel free to use the following or whatever you have on hand:

  • Minced cilantro - unless you’re one of those people who thinks it tastes like soap

  • Ginger - although ginger is from the same family as galangal, it’s not a direct substitute (and don’t believe any recipe that tells you otherwise). However, it’ll accomplish the task of packing flavor into these meatballs, which is what we’re going for!

  • Lime zest - also not a direct substitute for kaffir lime leaves, but will give the meatballs a nice lime-y flavor.

  • You can also add green curry paste directly into the meatballs - it has a lot of these herbs (like kaffir lime and galangal) already.

 
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Ingredients

Serves 4

Roasted eggplant

1 medium eggplant

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp minced ginger (from a piece about 1” long, peeled)

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp honey

Meatballs

1 lb ground pork

6-8 cloves garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

1/2 cup panko crumbs

1 tsp fish sauce

1 egg

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp sesame oil

8-10 kaffir lime leaves (optional, sub with lime zest from 2 limes if unavailable)

1 stalk of lemongrass

1” piece of galangal

2 tbsp khao khua (toasted sticky rice powder, optional) 

2 tbsp oil to cook

Green curry broth

4 tbsp green curry paste

1 can coconut milk (1.5 cups)

1.5 cups chicken broth

1 tbsp palm sugar (can sub with brown sugar)

3-4 kaffir lime leaves (optional, sub with lime zest from 1 lime if unavailable)

fish sauce to taste (start with 1 tsp, add more for extra umami)

juice from a lime

simmer for 10

rice noodles, any brand


Instructions

Roasted eggplant:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise, then score flesh with a knife - deep but not through the skin. Cut diagonal marks about an inch apart, then turn and cut diagonally the other way so you have a grid. This helps to crisp up the edges and get the marinade deep inside for extra flavor.

  3. Combine garlic, ginger, sesame oil, fish sauce, and honey. Rub all over the cut sides of the eggplant, then place both halves face down on a lined baking sheet.

  4. Bake for 40 minutes, then cut into slices to serve. Set aside.

Meatballs:

  1. Mix pork, garlic, shallot, panko, fish sauce, egg, honey, sesame oil, and khao khua (if using) in a large mixing bowl.

  2. To incorporate the herbs: slice the bottom of the lemongrass stalk into thin rings, until you can’t see purple anymore. Discard the top half of the stalk.

  3. Add lemongrass rings, kaffir lime leaves (or lime zest), and galangal to a food processor, and pulse until fine. Add to the rest of the meatball ingredients. Mix well to combine.

  4. Use hands to shape meatballs, using 1.5-2 tbsp meat mix for each. Flatten slightly.

  5. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet on med-high heat. Cook meatballs in batches, leaving room in between so they have space to crisp, Cook 3-4 mins on each side, until browned.

Green curry broth:

  1. Open the can of coconut milk and skim off the cream at the top - the fattiest, separated part (amount varies by brand, but usually there is at least 1tbsp of cream).

  2. Add to a pot on high heat. When coconut cream starts to bubble at the edges, add curry paste and fry for 2-3 mins until fragrant.

  3. Add the rest of the coconut milk and chicken broth, bring to a boil and lower to simmer. Add palm sugar and kaffir lime leaves and simmer for 10 minutes.

  4. Remove from heat and add fish sauce and lime juice.

To serve:

  1. Cook rice noodles according to package directions.

  2. Ladle broth on top, then top with eggplant slices and meatballs. Garnish with fresh herbs and extra fish sauce or lime juice if desired.

 
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