Quick and easy tender, juicy, flavourful Asian pork meatballs coated with a rich, glossy, umami-packed sweet and tangy sauce. So mouthwatering good! The tanginess of the sauce makes these meatballs super appetising and will get your tastebuds dancing!
For more easy Asian appetiser ideas, check out my refreshing and flavourful San Choy Bow and Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls recipes. All (including these super yummy pork meatballs) taste great at room temperature, perfect on a warm summer or spring day!
The umami, sweet and tangy sauce
- Dark soy sauce is richer in flavour and less salty than normal soy sauce. Dark soy sauces are just normal soy sauces that have had a longer fermentation time, giving them the extra rich umami flavour. Can substitute for normal soy sauce, just reduce the amount to 1.5 tablespoon from 2 tablespoon due to the higher salt content.
- Rice wine vinegar is more subtle and mild compared to white wine vinegar, with a hint of sweetness. Used here to give that mouthwatering tang, elevating all the flavours in this dish without being overpowering. Can substitute for white wine vinegar but rice wine vinegar is best here.
- Brown sugar is preferred due to its rich molasses flavour. Okay if use white sugar.
The pork meatballs
- Pork mince best use fatty pork mince that is around 15% fat. Fatty mince means juicy meatballs!
- Shaoxing wine is a Chinese rice wine that adds fantastic flavours into the pork meatballs. The liquid blends into the meatballs, making them juicier too! Substitute: dry sherry.
- White pepper is a classic choice for Chinese cooking due to its mild flavour. Substitute: black pepper.
- Sesame oil a little goes a long way. It adds a touch of earthy and nutty flavour.
This is how you make it
The key here, to tender pork meatballs that don't fall apart, is by mixing the meatballs in one direction. Mix vigorously until the mince forms a paste-like consistency. This will take about 2 minutes of continuous mixing. Yes, your hand will get pretty sore but it'll recover quickly and you'll be rewarded with delicious, tender meatballs!
Perfect if you have chopsticks, otherwise, a fork will work too.
Browning the meatballs will produce amazing flavours. Make sure to keep the heat to medium-low here as the soy sauce within the meatballs can burn easily on high heat (it has a higher burning point than meat). We want it to caramelise, not burn!
Although the meatballs are packed with great Asian flavours, undoubtedly, I believe the sauce is the star here. It's tangy, caramelly, salty and best of all, it's an umami bomb. The consistency is luxurious, glossy and coats the meatballs perfectly.
Note, this recipe makes a generous amount of sauce and since it's punchy and rich in flavour, it'll be unlikely that all of it will be consumed. It'll cover another batch of meatballs if you want to cook in bulk and freeze for a rainy day!
Finish the dish up with some sliced spring onions to help brighten the dish up. Sprinkle some sesame seeds if you have some, that will be nice too!
Tips for making this perfect every time
- Mix the meatball ingredients in one direction and mix vigorously! This is the key to tender Asian pork meatballs. Also helps the meatballs to stay intact and from falling apart when cooking.
- Have all ingredients out on the kitchen bench before you start. This applies to all dishes, especially when following a recipe. A handy habit to help make cooking a seamless and stress-free experience. No fumbling about in the kitchen!
- Use quality soy sauces! When it comes to soy sauces, you get what you pay for. It's something that lasts quite a long time so do invest in quality soy sauces. The differences in flavour are huuuge! If in doubt, pick the more expensive bottle. Otherwise, ask the staff at the Asian grocer, they'll be able to help you out. My favourite brands are Wan Ja Shan (their Premium Aged Soy Sauce is the best!) and Kimlan. Both are usually available at most Asian grocers. This is not a sponsored shout out.
Look at how juicy these meatballs are! All thanks to the fatty pork and the liquid from shaoxing wine!
Good to know (FAQs)
To have as a main, serve with simply prepared greens (such as sauteed bok choy or English spinach) and some freshly steamed rice (or this fragrant and flavourful Chinese Sausage Fried Rice)! Otherwise, fantastic as an appetiser.
Yes! Try any of the following suitable substitutes: sliced coriander, finely diced brown onions or finely diced shiitake mushrooms.
Made this Asian Pork Meatballs recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you 🙂
Happy cooking! - Gen
More delicious Asian dishes to make
Asian Pork Meatballs
- ½ tablespoon cooking oil canola or sunflower
- 500 g /1lbs pork mince ideally fatty (note 1)
- ¼ cup spring onions/scallions finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1½ tablespoon shaoxing wine
- ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon fresh ginger minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
Tangy caramel sauce
- 2 tablespoon dark soy sauce Use good quality (note 2)
- 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ cup cold water
- finely sliced spring onions or sesame seeds
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine all pork meatball ingredients and mix continuously in one direction (clockwise or anti-clockwise) with a pair of chopsticks or a fork. About 2 - 3 minutes.
- In a large skillet or non-stick pan, add cooking oil and bring the pan up to medium-low heat then form bite-sized meatballs with your hands, adding them into the pan as each is formed. (note 3) Brown and caramelise both sides of meatballs then remove and set aside. Meatballs do not have to be cooked at this point.
- Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in two batches.
- Turn the heat off and in the same pan (no need to wash), add dark soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar and sesame oil. Turn the heat back on to low heat and bring the sauce up to a low simmer. About 1 minute.
- Add meatballs back into the pan and gently coat with sauce with a spoon or flipping them.
- Mix cornstarch with cold water until cornstarch has disolved, pour into the pan. Mix the sauce with a wooden spoon until the sauce is thick and glossy.
- Serve once meatballs are cooked, sprinkle with spring onions and/or sesame seeds.
Does the recipe use sweet dark soy sauce or dark soy sauce, I have both in my pantry but uncertain which to use.
Dark soy sauce 🙂