Fragrant and savory Vietnamese lemongrass meatball wraps served with rice vermicelli noodles and chili sauce. Try this recipe for a light yet satisfying spread!
Lemongrass is one of those ingredients that really intimidated me. I didn’t know where to buy it and knew even less how to prepare it. However, I found it one day at my local Asian grocery store and discovered its incredible flavor. It smells almost like a candle – citrusy, woody, and fragrant. Lemongrass is sold in long stalks and most of it is actually discarded. You’re usually left with just a few inches of this fragrant ingredient after peeling back the tough outer layers and cutting off the stem and inedible stalk, . However, it has a powerful flavor and works wonders when paired with classic Asian flavors.
These Vietnamese lemongrass meatball wraps are so savory because they’re infused with fish sauce, soy sauce, and other incredible ingredients. Additionally, the lemongrass brightens it up and adds another dimension of flavor. I chose to pan-sear the meatballs to get that char. I referenced this recipe for the meatballs. You can then wrap the meatballs in a ~healthy~ lettuce wrap filled with quick vermicelli noodles, carrots, and a simple Thai chili dressing. Be prepared to be blown away by how delightfully simple and satisfying these wraps are!
How to Make It
The first step is to prepare the lemongrass for the meatballs. Cut the bottom 1/2 inch off each lemongrass stalk and trim the woody top portion of each stalk and discard. Peel the outer layers of each stalk until you reach the tender center. Then, combine the lemongrass with the quartered onion, garlic cloves, ginger, and cilantro stems in a food processor. Blend until it forms a smooth paste. The flavors will all blend together and mix well into the meatballs.
Next, combine the lemongrass mixture with pork, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, sambal oelek (or sriracha), and white pepper. Mix until well combined.
To form the meatballs, roll into 1½ inch rounds and put aside on a rimmed baking sheet. You should have around 20.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat and add olive oil. When the oil is hot, place the meatballs in the pan, making sure not to overcrowd. Let meatballs cook without moving until a sear forms, around 2 minutes. Then repeat on multiple sides, around 8-10 minutes in all.
This dressing is more like a vinaigrette using umami ingredients like fish sauce and soy sauce. In a small jar with a lid, combine the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, lime juice, garlic, and minced Thai chile. If you don’t have Thai chile on hand, you could use crushed red pepper flakes or minced serrano pepper, depending on how much heat you want. Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
Store extras in the fridge for up to one week.
Cook rice noodles according to instructions. I usually soak in warm water for about 20 minutes until softer. Use kitchen scissors to cut into bite-sized pieces. Additionally, peel and julienne a carrot for the lettuce wraps.
To serve, top butter lettuce with noodles, carrots, meatballs, dressing, cilantro, and roasted peanuts.
This dish is perfect for get-togethers where everyone can assemble their own plate. It’s flexible and can be customized to everyone’s own preferences. Let me know if you try these lemongrass meatball wraps!
Vietnamese Lemongrass Meatball Lettuce Wraps
- 3 stalks lemongrass prepared *
- ½ medium onion, quartered
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 inch ginger
- 1 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves separated
- 1 lb ground pork
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1½ tbsp fish sauce
- 1½ tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sambal oelek, or sriracha
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp lime juice or apple cider vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 Thai chile, finely minced
- 1 carrot peeled and julienned
- 6 oz rice vermicelli noodles
- reserved cilantro leaves
- 1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated and rinsed also known as Boston or bibb
- roasted peanuts
Lemongrass Pork Meatballs
- In a small food processor or high-power blender, combine lemongrass, onion, garlic, ginger, and cilantro stems. Blend until it forms a rough paste.
- In a large bowl, combine lemongrass mixture with pork, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, sambal oelek, and white pepper. Mix until well combined.
- Roll into 1½ inch meatballs (around 20 meatballs) and set on a rimmed baking sheet. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat and add olive oil. When the oil is hot, place the meatballs in the pan, making sure not to overcrowd. Let meatballs cook without moving until a sear forms, around 2 minutes. Then repeat on multiple sides, around 8-10 minutes in all.
- In a small jar with a lid, combine the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, lime juice, garlic, and minced chile. Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
- Cook rice noodles according to instructions and use kitchen scissors to cut into bite-sized pieces.
- For lettuce wraps, serve as lettuce topped with noodles, meatballs, carrots, dressing, peanuts, and reserved cilantro leaves.