A few months ago, Bronson and I signed up for Blue Apron, a meal delivery service. Blue Apron sends you 2-3 meals/week depending on the package you purchase, and you get to enjoy cooking a unique meal with awesome ingredients. They’ve sent us ingredients that I’ve always wanted to work with but can never find (Purple potatoes FTW!) and some that I’ve never heard of before (Purple rice WTF?). BA’s recipes cover all areas of the globe and include common food practices that I hadn’t thought to utilize. I finally understand why everyone is losing their shit over pickling.
Hands-down, the best Blue Apron dinner we had was their soy-glazed meatballs, accompanied by Swiss chard, rice and pickled radishes. Our first thought when we saw the recipe card for this dish was, “Asian meatballs? Really?” but we were so much more than pleasantly surprised by this dish. It was amazing! With a soy glaze and soft rice, you’d think that meatballs should have always been a thing with Asian food. We kept talking about how good that meal was, so we decided to branch off and make our own.
Blue Apron sends little bottles of their pre-made sauces in the packages but doesn’t share the recipes for them, so we were left to figure out our own soy glaze recipe. Bronson dug into the internet for a tasty-looking soy glaze recipe and came across this one. We chose to use fresh, minced ginger instead of dried in our glaze. Nothing beats real, fresh ingredients over frozen or dried. Ginger is often sold in large chunks, so break it into pieces with your hands to get the appropriate amount that you need. When working with fresh ginger, you have to cut the thick skin off to get to the good stuff inside. Ginger is also much easier to break down if you cut with the grain first (parallel to those little stringy fibers inside the ginger, not perpendicular to them), and then start slamming your blade down to chop it.
After combining the ginger, brown and white sugars, rice and white wine vinegars, soy sauce and a little water in a saucepan to make the glaze, we let it simmer and reduce for about 30 minutes into a deliciously glossy sauce, packed with flavor. See my enticing gif below! We let the glaze cool for a while (40+ minutes) before we started on the meatballs so that it would thicken.
For the meatballs, I combined freshly-ground beef from the deli, more of the fresh ginger, sliced white bottoms of green onions (saving the green tops for garnishing later!), crushed garlic, salt, pepper and brown rice flour to help everything stay together. I gently massaged the ingredients together so that the meatballs would stay soft and moist. Ground meat can get tough if it’s handled too much.
After I massaged my meat, I gently rolled 2-inch balls from the mix. This isn’t spaghetti and meatballs, so I made the meatballs much smaller to be easily eaten with chopsticks. Eating meatballs with chopsticks? Yes! I fried the meatballs up in a pan with some Tsang’s Stir-Fry oil. This badass oil smells like sesame oil and garlic and adds a ton of depth to whatever you cook in it. It gives everything an inherently Asian flavor, so why wouldn’t we use it on our Asian meatballs?
Once the meatballs were lightly fried and mostly cooked-through, I generously plopped some of the deep brown soy glaze into the pan. The sauce cooked onto the meatballs and gave them a sexy caramelization. My stomach stirred loudly as the sharp saltiness of the sauce overwhelmed my nose. I couldn’t wait to taste the complex salty-sweetness of the sauce with the fresh meatballs. Bronson wouldn’t wait and said, “Fuggit!” as he snagged a meatball right from the pan with chopsticks. When he was done panting and fanning the steaming meatball in his mouth, he chewed, smiled and started nodding vigorously. I enjoy being able to taste my food, so I waited until the meatballs cooled a bit to try one.
While the meatballs were frying, I started a pot of salted water for Jasmine rice. Unlike my Great Grain Tip, I didn’t rinse and soak the Jasmine rice before cooking it because I wanted it to stick together like traditional Asian rice. When the water was boiling, I added the rice to the pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Once all of the water had cooked into the rice, I removed the pot from the stove and let it sit on a hot pad for about 10 minutes before fluffing it up with a fork.
With all of the elements of dinner ready, I piled some rice into the bottom of a bowl, threw a few of the meatballs on there and poured some more soy glaze over them. To finish my plate, I tossed some diagonally-cut green onion tops and red pepper flakes on top of the dish. Then I dug in – as well as one can dig with chopsticks.
Sexy, right? I feel like a bit of a douche saying this, but – MOUTHGASM! I was/am absolutely in love with this dish, so much that I’m willing to say ‘mouthgasm’. This was one of those meals that leaves you sitting in your chair afterward, proudly rubbing your belly with your eyes closed, savoring the flavors lingering on your palate, wishing for more.
The flavor of the ginger really came through in the meatballs, and that freshness with the soft meat lightened up the entire dish so that it didn’t feel so dense like beef often does. The velvety soy glaze was even better than the one that BA sent us, salty and sweet with a kick from the vinegars. The complexity of the meatballs and sauce made me relish the Jasmine rice. I feel like rice is often just ‘there’ on a plate, but in this dish it was like a palate-cleanser between bites. And the red pepper flakes on top of everything gave a little heat that built as I ate.
Since making this dish on our own, I’ve been begging Bronson to want this for dinner again. It’s that good. That, and the soy glaze recipe makes a ton at once and I can’t let that delicious, edible velvet go to waste. We’ve been tinkering with the idea of dressing up the glaze into a stir-fry sauce…
Recipe for Soy-Glazed Meatballs – Original credit to Blue Apron
For the Soy-Glaze: – Original credit to this guy
2/3 cup Brown Sugar
1/3 cup White Sugar
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
2 tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1/4 cup water
*1 inch piece of fresh Ginger, minced (original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon ground)
Combine all ingredients together in a saucepan and heat over medium-low. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced by half. Remove glaze from heat and allow to cool and thicken, 1+ hrs (We did 40 minutes because we were getting hangry, and it was just fine!)
For the meatballs:
1 lb. Ground Beef
White bottoms of 2 Green Onions, sliced
1 inch piece of fresh Ginger, minced
2 tablespoons Brown Rice Flour
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons Tsang’s Stir-Fry oil (or Sesame, Olive, Coconut, whatever you have on hand)
Combine ground beef, green onion, ginger, garlic, brown rice flour, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Gently mix the ingredients together with your hands and form 2-inch balls. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Once hot, add the meatballs and cook until brown on all sides.
When the meatballs are brown on all sides, add a generous spoonful of the soy glaze to the pan and coat the meatballs with it. Allow the meatballs to cook in the sauce for a few minutes to caramelize.
Serve over sticky Jasmine rice, garnish with green tops of green onions and red pepper flakes.