Spicy Turkey Meatballs and Some Ways to Use Them

October 16, 2016
6 Ratings
  • Makes about 20 meatballs
Author Notes

One of my favorite recipes in the Lucky Peach Asian cookbook is for what they call Lion's Head Meatballs. The meatballs freeze well, so it's on constant rotation. In the original recipe, you use ground pork belly and soy sauce, sugar, garlic and ginger to season the meatballs; you then simmer them with vegetables in chicken stock and serve them with rice or noodles. It's a delicious, easy dinner.
I changed the recipe so that the meatballs could be used in different ways. First I used ground turkey, then I changed the seasoning of the meatballs and the sauce so the sauce would be the distinctive flavoring agent. And you can change sauces and vehicles so that the meatballs can be used in a variety of ways--now, and later.


What You'll Need
  • For the Meatballs (can easily be doubled)
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 bunch scallions, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1-3 tablespoons grapeseed or other vegetable oil
  • To Turn this Into A Variation on Lucky Peach Lion's Head Meatballs:
  • 1 bunch scallions, finely minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed or other vegetable oil
  • 1 pound baby bok choy, chopped into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooked rice or noodles for serving
  1. For the Meatballs (can easily be doubled)
  2. Put the turkey into a large bowl and break it up with your hands or a large fork. Add the scallions, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and mix till combined. Add the egg and cornstarch, mixing it well till all the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Pinch off a small amount and fry it in a small frying pan to taste for seasoning. Adjust to your taste. Roll the mixture into approximately 1 1/2 inch balls.
  3. Heat a large deep skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, then enough meatballs to fit in a single layer. (I do this in two batches.) Reduce heat to medium, rotate them as each part browns, and sear them until browned all over. Set aside. Add oil to the pan and brown the rest of the meatballs (or you can freeze them raw for future use).
  1. To Turn this Into A Variation on Lucky Peach Lion's Head Meatballs:
  2. Heat a large deep skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, then add scallions, garlic and ginger, stirring frequently till softened and fragrant. Lay chopped bok choy in pan, and pour in chicken broth, soy sauce and sesame oil. Taste broth and adjust seasonings. Lay meatballs on top (I do 2-3 per person; depends on your appetite), cover, and simmer about 20-30 minutes till the meatballs are cooked through. Serve with rice or noodles.
  3. Another recipe that we absolutely loved in Lucky Peach was Cumin Lamb. You can make Cumin Meatballs: Grind cumin seeds and Szechuan peppercorns in a spice grinder. Stir fry a mess of onions in a large skillet or wok and set them aside. Stir fry scallions and garlic, then add in about a teaspoon (to taste) of the cumin-peppercorn mixture, soy sauce, dry sherry, and about 1/2-3/4 cup of broth or water as needed to make a sauce. Toss the meatballs in the sauce and let them simmer till cooked through. If the sauce is too thin, take out the meatballs and heat over high heat to reduce it. Serve with fried onions, some chopped cilantro (or parsley for cilantro haters), and rice or noodles.
  4. Other stuff you can do with the meatballs: Pasta and red sauce, meatball sandwiches, cajun meatballs (Sweat the holy trinity--onions, celery, bell pepper; add to your tomato sauce; spice it up with some cayenne or Tabasco.), add them in soup; the possibilities are endless.

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