Meatballs with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Everything about this recipe-the flavors, aromas, and combinations of ingredients-will transport you to Southeast Asia, and give you a warm and exotic feeling even if it falls outside.


For Meatballs:

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean high-quality ground beef
  • 1 red jalapeno or Fresno chile, seeded and finely minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced ginger (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced scallions
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely minced lemongrass, or 1/2 teaspoon finely minced lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon peanut, macadamia nut, or vegetable oil

For Sauce:

  • 3 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced lemongrass (about 3 stalks)
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves (or 1 teaspoon chopped lime zest)
  • 2 cups minced cilantro
  • 1/3 cup finely minced basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water (optional)
  • 4 servings cooked rice


TO PREPARE MEATBALLS: Thoroughly combine the beef, ginger, chile, scallion, lemongrass, cilantro, salt, pepper, and sesame oil in a mixing bowl. Divide the mixture evenly into 16 (or 20 smaller) balls. Heat the peanut oil in a sauté pan and cook the meatballs over medium-high heat, turning occasionally until browned on all sides, for 10 minutes (for medium), or to the desired doneness.

TO PREPARE SAUCE: Place the coconut milk, peanut butter, brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, onion, shallots, garlic, curry paste, lemongrass, lime leaves, cilantro, and basil in a large saucepan. While stirring, bring just to a simmer over medium-low heat; do not boil. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat, adjust the seasonings, and strain before serving. If you wish a thicker consistency, combine 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water, stir to dissolve, and mix into the sauce until thoroughly combined; continue to cook until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

TO SERVE: Divide the rice among serving plates, and top with the meatballs and sauce.

WINE RECOMMENDATION: A wine of quality and strength, such as a Chianti Classico from Italy, a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Medoc in Bordeaux, or a Hermitage from the Rhone Valley.

HELPFUL TIPS: Sticky rice or jasmine rice are good choices, but if you prefer, use regular long-grain white rice. We call for 1/4 cup of curry paste in this recipe, but you can reduce this amount or increase it by a tablespoon or so, depending on your heat tolerance.

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