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Thursday, June 14, 2012

nem nuong balls ~ eat my balls


i suppose i should start by announcing that i did not win the meatball contest, i lost by 2 votes. to say i was devastated would be an understatement. i just hope my Losers Face wasn't ugly. i kid, i kid. it was a fun day, i stepped out of my comfort zone, i met readers/fans (which was such a treat!) and most importantly, i learned a few things:

i need to work on my Schmoozing Game: i am capable of putting words together to create sentences. however, when in public i seize up, stammer, and i end up saying a lot of "uh"s and "um"s. for someone who holds a degree in Journalism, and had aspirations of being the next Christian Amanpour, my crippling shyness can be a real buzzkill sometimes.

i need to stop second guessing myself: i thought long & hard about what to make. i was worried about making it too spicy, or not punchy enough, should i add sauce or keep it out? it's wise to keep other people's palates in mind but it's impossible to please everyone, and there were about 100 people who were taste testing. as long as *i'm* fine with the taste, everything else is secondary.

simplicity: my two competitors had to serve up their balls individually, complete with sauce + garnishes. i kept my balls simple: garnished with one cilantro leaf + slice of pickled carrot on toothpicks. i wanted to avoid any bottlenecking at the buffet table. should i enter this contest again, i will definitely nix any sauce thoughts and keep the simple angle.

unfortunately i did not taste the other two balls, they were laden with Dairy Doom and i was not about to spend the rest of the day at the festival with an aching belly. either way, the shirt i wore was a hit and if it was a contest on best dressed, i dare say i would've won.

tshirt created at

Nem Nuong Balls
(previous nem nuong recipe)

these are not exact measurements, the dozen times i've made this have not ended up the exact same way, it's all on taste preference. also, use your hands. they will get dirty. wash them before and after, thoroughly. try to put all the ingredients in the bowl first before mixing with your hands that way you're not constantly washing up. minimum fuss, maximum efficiency. it helps if you have someone to aid you.

1 lb ground pork
1/4 cup - 1/2 cup honey
salt/pepper to taste
approx. 1/4 cup fish sauce
2 stalks lemongrass, the lower white part
3 stalks of green onions/scallions, green & white parts
half head of garlic
1 small onion, diced, separate
2 tsp baking powder + 1/8 cup water, optional

to garnish:

in a food processor, add in the lemongrass. process it, alot. scrape down the sides. add in the scallions & garlic. pulse until chopped thru and incorporated.

in a BIG mixing bowl, put in the ground pork and processed lemongrass/garlic/scallions. add in the seasonings and diced onions. now, mix everything together with your hands. make sure everything is incorporated well.

as this point, have your aid mix the baking powder + water. it will foam up. this is an optional step but i find that this mixture aids in making the meat chewy and fluffy and all sorts of yum, texture-wise. pour the mix into the bowl and again, mix everything well.

refrigerate for about 30 minutes. (for the contest, i mixed the entire thing up the night before and the day of, about 30 minutes prior to cooking i added the baking powder/water mix and then proceeded with cooking...)

**i did cook up a small bite size to check on the taste, adjusted the seasoning accordingly.**

shape into balls, aim for half an ounce portion, which will give you about 32 balls. either you can put them on pre-soaked bamboo sticks to grill or just free form them and fry them up partially, and then bake to finish.

i decided to fry them up in a bit of oil, keeping a careful eye on them to partially char/brown up. the honey provides not only that sweet note but a nice caramelization for a pretty effect. don't crowd the pan.

this can be served at room temp, eaten alone, with garnish or in summer rolls. or you know, in a random salad.

meatball salad


  1. I had your competition, and yours were the best. They were juicy and not smothered in a sauce. Plus, they were dairy free, which I especially appreciate.

    1. kristen, you're the best. thanks so much for coming out to support me!

  2. Wow, those balls look great and so does the recipe - cannot wait to try it out (just love pork meatballs - actually, anything that's pork). And I agree @ best dressed person...nice to see a pic of you :)

    1. thank you vinita. i agree about anything with pork is awesome.

  3. I love your shirt! and I love your balls too. they look so elegant and I like the clean flavours. granted, haven't tasted them, but already they sound amazing and I'm going to try make them this weekend for myself.

    I'm sorry you didn't win, but don't worry I'm sure you're on to better things ;)

    1. shu han, please do let me know how they turn out for you!

  4. ok you are adorable. and i want to eat your balls. did that sound weird? your recipe sounds delish! i love meatballs and i love fish sauce... i never make hamburger patties without nuoc mam. and they are sort of like meatballs. so i guess i like hamburgers, too.

    1. dinnersforwinners, thank you and no it did not sound weird! my friends & i were saying inappropriate ball jokes to each other the entire day. and i believe nuoc mam saves dishes, if not lives. (don't quote me tho)

  5. They look like winning balls to me, and I'd sure eat 'em. (And I don't eat balls. YES I KNOW, I KNOW.)

    1. gasp! i would whip up vegetarian balls for you. (in fact, it crossed my mind to make them instead, but i was not sure how the crowd would feel about tofu+kale balls...)

  6. You and your balls would have won the award for best looking had there been one. Hands down.

    1. stephanie, you are too kind, thanks!

  7. So I don't know how I missed this post in my Reader? But I'm glad I saw it on your FB page because I've been wanting to read about the event! Proud of you for doing it, for putting yourself out there, ums and uhs or not, and think it's really good you did.


    Second, that t-shirt? Genius.

    Third, I'm way impressed by anyone who puts herself out there. It ain't easy. But you've got a whole bunch of cheerleaders behind you. And we love your balls.