I got back from an incredible trip to Vietnam just over a week ago and somehow my brain is still not functioning correctly. It’s not my fault! Not only is the jet lag situation real, but I’m spending A LOT of time daydreaming about all the pho and banh beo and banh xeo I consumed while I was there- Vietnam is a SERIOUS food lover’s paradise.
So it won’t surprise you that I came directly home and tried to recreate some of those same flavors in my own kitchen. Since I was dreaming up recipes for a collaboration with Foster Farms using their Organic Ground Turkey, it felt like the perfect opportunity to create a healthy meatball full of lean protein and wrapped in an abundance of bright herb flavor and fresh ingredients. Enter: Vietnamese Lemongrass Meatballs.
I fully credit Alyssa and her amazing trip planning skills for my Vietnam love. Since I only visited Northern Vietnam during our last trip together (which she TOTALLY planned expertly), her posts and stories about the rest of her trip in South Vietnam sold me on future visits to the rest of the country. My recent trip was a two week whirlwind through Central and South Vietnam that included time in the Mekong Delta, Saigon, Dong Hoi and the Phong Nha National Park, Hue, and Hoi An.
From an amazing first meal of the year in Saigon at Secret Garden to a Hoi An street food tour which included duck egg embryo and xi ma (black sesame pudding), it’s REALLY tough to pick a favorite meal. There were so many delicious things and so many amazing food moments, but here’s the one I channeled for this recipe: we’d just taken a long morning ride on the back of a motorbike learning about farming and life in the countryside surrounding Hoi An and we stopped at a small home. As usual, we got seated at a table and food just started coming out. When we got a platter of ingredients to roll our own spring rolls, the restaurant owner came out to demonstrate and then told us she’s picked all the herbs THAT MORNING from her backyard garden. Yup. All nonchalant, except FRESH HERBS. THAT MORNING.
We’ve partnered with Foster Farms quite a few times before, and the reasons why are simple: their products are locally grown in CA’s Central Valley, they never use antibiotics and the company is committed to keeping these high standards so we can all enjoy great quality food. The Organic Ground Turkey is extra exceptional: it’s raised free-range on a certified organic vegetarian diet and is always free of added hormones and steroids. Plus- ground turkey is a GREAT swap for other ground meats like beef- it provides you with a nutritious and lean source of protein that’s light and simple. Win win.
Preparing these meatballs is so easy and gathering fresh ingredients to create your lettuce wraps makes eating them legitimately FUN. Lemongrass is an extremely popular ingredient that I saw all over Vietnam- it’s delicate and bright without being incredibly overpowering. In these meatballs, it lends another fresh note to the whole dish. I can’t get enough.
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 lb Foster Farms Organic Ground Turkey
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 tbsp minced lemongrass
- 2 tbsp minced cilantro
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for cooking)
- 3 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp salt
- Add shallots, egg, lemongrass, cilantro, garlic, fish sauce, olive oil, cornstarch, and salt to a medium sized bowl and stir together gently until mixed.
- Add ground turkey and combine with a fork until ingredients are blended- don't over combine as this will make your meatballs more dense.
- Cover the bowl with saran wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop one to one and a half inch scoops of the meatball mixture into the oil and cook until browned and cooked through thoroughly, about 8 to 0 minutes. (Note that the meatball mixture will be loose- nothing to worry about!)
- Serve with lettuce cups and top with fresh herbs (such as basil, mint, and cilantro), sliced carrots, lime juice, green onions, or pickled shallots.
I honestly can’t wait for you to try these- they’re so savory and flavorful! The ground turkey swap (for the traditional pork) is seamless, with a moist end result that’s just right.
Tell me more about your favorite Vietnamese food, or maybe your go-to ground turkey swap? I love ground turkey spaghetti sauce or stir frys. YUM. Let’s just pretend I’m on vacation again so it can be all about the food for ANOTHER two weeks. I’m sure it’ll help the jet lag, right?