Beef balls (thit bo vien)

Yield: 60 meatballs

Measure Ingredient
¼ cup Plus one tablespoon nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)
1 tablespoon Plus 1 teaspoon potato starch
1 teaspoon Baking powder
1 teaspoon Sugar
¼ teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds Trimmed boneless beef hind shank
4 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon Oriental sesame oil
Vegetable oil, for shaping meatballs

A few weeks back there was some discussion of a Vietnamese meat ball soup that you had in a restaurant. This is a recipe for beef meat balls that may be close to what you had. Actually this seems to be more like a pate from the preparation. I'm also posting a recipe for a Vietnamese pork pate that's delicious as well as a recipe for grilled dried beef. These crunchy little beef balls are very popular among the Vietnamese. They are served mainly as appetizers or added to noodle soups. Chili sauce (tuong ot) is the usual accompaniment, but any hot red pepper sauce can be served alongside.

[Tuong ot is a paste made by smashing up hot red chilies and garlic.

The Philippine "Sambal Oelek" or Thai Sriracha are good substitutes.


In a shallow dish, mix the fish sauce, potato starch, baking powder, sugar and black pepper.

Slice the meat into ⅛-inch-thick pieces. Add to the marinade and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Before proceeding, transfer the meat to the freezer for 30 minutes.

Work with half of the beef at a time; do not overload the work bowl.

In a food processor, combine half of the beef with half of the garlic and sesame oil. Process to a completely smooth but stiff paste, about 3 minutes. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. The completed paste should spring back to the touch.

Transfer the paste to a bowl. Process the remaining beef, garlic and sesame oil the same way.

Rub some vegetable oil on one hand. Grab a handful of the meat paste and close your hand into a fist, squeezing out a small portion of the mixture, about 1 teaspoon, between your thumb and index finger. Keep rolling and squeezing the same portion between your thumb and index finger until you obtain a smooth rounded ball. Scoop out the meatball with an oiled spoon. Repeat until all of the paste is used.

Pour 1 inch of water into a wok or wide pot. Place a steamer rack or bamboo steamer over the water. Arrange the meatballs without crowding in a single layer on the rack. Cover and steam for 5 minutes.

Serve as an appetizer with chili sauce. These beef balls can also be added to a well-seasoned beef broth, sprinkled with chopped scallions and black pepper and served as a soup (noodles may be added).

NOTE: These meatballs may be frozen. Thaw them thoroughly, then steam or simmer in boiling water until just heated through.

Yield: about 60 meatballs.

From "The Foods of Vietnam" by Nicole Rauthier. Stewart, Tabori, 1989.

Posted by Stephen Ceideburg August 28 1990.

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