These chicken meatballs are tender on the inside but firm and springy on the outside, if you care enough to ground your own meat, it tastes so much better than the ready-minced supermarket type, a little effort goes a long way. For the sauce, since I want something rich and spicy, I use a mixture of my favorite pantry staples: miso paste and Gochujang (Korean chili paste), this combination delivers a sharp umami taste with a spicy kick which works wonderfully well with the meatballs. In fact the sauce itself is quite flavoursome, so it becomes amazingly versatile, it makes wonder to all food wherever it is added (I literately use it on everything: salad, stew, marinade, stir fry, even just drizzle it on rice and noodles!) and it only takes a few minutes to whip up. My ‘go to sauce’ when I crave for something hearty and spicy, especially in cool autumn days.
Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables and it adapts well with various flavours without losing its own. Once cooked, its licorice taste became subtle enough not to overpowering but to compliment the others. I also love its texture, it is crunchy when raw but still remains a bite to it when it is cooked. It is one of the most used vegetables on my blog, absolutely great in salad, soup, stew, roast and many more. When I was planning this recipe early this week, fennel was the first vegetable which emerged in my head and I knew it would be the perfect side ingredient for this wonderful early autumn dish, and I was right.
Note: for the sauce: it seems a lot of liquid when you first added the stock to the pan, but the sauce will thicken up and reduce slightly when everything is cooked. Since I just plated up part of the dish for the photos, it doesn’t look like a lot of sauce there, but the amount of ingredients for the sauce should make plenty for the final dish.
For the meatballs:
- 650g minced chicken (free range or organic), ready minced or ground in food processor
- 2 pieces (50g) of stale bread (I use gluten free toast bread), pulsed to crumbs
- 4 stalks spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp. oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp. tamari (or regular soy sauce)
- 1 tbsp. mirin
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 tbsp. brown rice flour (or all purpose flour), plus more for coating
For the Miso Gochujang sauce:
- 1 heaped tbsp. Gochujang
- 1 heaped tbsp. miso paste
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. runny honey
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 tbsp. mirin
- 300ml good quality chicken stock
For the rest:
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 2 medium fennel bulbs, stalk removed and cut into wedges
- 3 stalk spring onions, cut into about 8cm batons
- 1 stalk spring onion, chopped (for garnish)
- Steamed rice to serve
- Freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, combine all chicken meatball ingredients and mixed well. Prepare a plate of brown rice flour (or regular flour) on the side. Use your hands, form meatball as the size of a ping pong ball. Coat each meatball with brown rice flour as you go (the meat mixture is quite sticky so I found the flour helps to form into shape). This should make about 16-18 balls. Keep the meatballs in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up and help the taste to develop.
Make the miso gochujang sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients apart from the chicken stock in a small bowl, mix well and set aside.
When the meatballs is firm and ready, heat a frying pan or wok with about 2cm of oil in until hot. Add the meatballs carefully in the pan and brown them on all sides (you will have to fry them in batches). Turn the heat down to medium and cook the meatballs a little bit longer (careful not to burn them) until they are quite firm when you squeeze them with a tongs or chopsticks, about 5-8 minutes, turn them regularly. Transfer them to a plate lined with kitchen paper and continue with the rest.
Pour away any remaining oil (if any) and wipe clean the pan with kitchen paper, warm some oil in the pan and add the spring onion batons, fennel wedges and fry for a minute. Add the miso Gochujang mixture in the vegetables and stir and coat well. Then pour in the chicken stock, stir well and have a taste, adjust the seasoning. Bring to boil and add the meatballs, reduce to simmer (turn the meatballs twice during cooking so that they are evenly cooked in the sauce) with a lid for about 6-8 minutes or until cook through (you can test it by breaking up one of the meatballs and see if it it cooked through in the centre).
Transfer the meatballs and the sauce in a platter and garnish with the chopped spring onion and freshly ground black pepper, served with hot steamy rice.