Korean Cocktail Meatballs with Sweet Soy Glaze
Korean Cocktail Meatballs is another recipe that I developed recently for a restaurant. And now that we are getting into holiday season, you should definitely have this simple and unique Korean cocktail meatballs appetizer in your arsenal of recipes. The most common cocktail meatballs are usually soft and smothered in sweet sauce and I love these too but sometimes you want something different. Now, these meatballs are fried and not oven baked or slow cooked. It is light and almost fluffy(?) in the inside with bits of kimchi bursting with flavor and then has a bit of a chewy and crusty outside. They are crazy moist, tender but slightly springy. Have you ever had Swedish meatballs in IKEA? My meatballs have very similar texture to that. In fact, I did borrow the technique from Cook’s Illustrated of whipping up the first part of the meatball mixture to achieve this effect. I add chopped Kimchi and tofu which adds a definite Korean flair to this dish while not screaming KOREAN in your face. :))
When I was first asked to develop a Korean meatball appetizer recipe, I wasn’t sure if I could come up with something that was different but still delicious enough to work. But after many tries by playing with pork to beef ratio and the amount of tofu and kimchi (and I don’t think I want to taste any meatballs for a long time..lol) I think I found the best combination!! And then my sweet soy glaze with sesame seeds will definitely make you and your guests wanting for more.
Before we get into my Korean cocktail meatball recipe, I want to point out that there is a somewhat equivalent meatball dish that is originally a side dish (banchan) but now often served as an appetizer – that’s classic Korean – it’s called Wanja 완자. According to one Korean-English dictionary, Wanja is defined as “a meatball fried in egg batter”. But here’s my definition: “a meatball or beef patty that is coated in egg batter and pan fried“. Pan frying and frying really produce such different results, I had to make that distinction. FYI, here is my authentic and classic wanja jeon recipe if you want to make some jeons for your next Korean meal.
Sadly, or may be happily for some?? 😝
No good story comes to mind when it comes to these cocktail meatballs so let’s just get straight to the recipe.
Yields: 25 x 15 g meatballs Prep + Cooking Time: 30 min Difficulty: Medium
- 5- 6 cups Vegetable or Canola oil for deep frying
- 4 oz ground pork
- 2 oz ground beef
- 6 oz waterless tofu, crumbled (also use regular firm tofu and wring excess water out with cheesecloth)
- 3 Tbs napa cabbage kimchi, chopped
- 2 tsp garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbs milk
- 1 Tbs panko bread crumbs or regular bread crumbs
- 1/8 tsp ginger powder
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbs sesame seeds
Sweet Soy Glaze
- 2 Tbs dark soy sauce, jin ganjang
- 2 Tbs rice syrup
- 2 Tbs sugar
- 2 Tbs rice wine or cooking sake
- 1 Tbs water
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 3 dried red chilies (Japones Chile)
- 1 Tbs garlic, chopped
** I used a stand mixer to make things easier for me. You can just mix with an hand held electric beater too. Whipping the first part of the pork mixture in step 5 with an electric mixer/beater makes the meatballs extra tender. And then adding the beef later on but not whipping it adds a chewy texture which is a great contrast. Mix with your own hands or whisk as much as you can if you don’t have an electric mixer.
- In a sauce pan, heat sesame and vegetable oil on medium high heat. Add garlic and red chilis.
- Sauté garlic and red chili for 30 secs to 1 minute until slightly brown and fragrant.
- Add to garlic oil, remaining ingredients. Mix and bring to boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes until slightly thick. Turn off heat and set aside.
- Finely chop napa cabbage kimchi. Set aside. (Kimchi should be fully fermented. See my No Crazy Kimchi post if you want to know more about how to ripen/ferment Kimchi properly)
- In a stand mixer, add pork, tofu, garlic, ginger powder, salt, baking powder. Whip mixture until smooth. Consistency should be pasty and everything should be pale pink color. This step is important in producing light, fluffy meatballs so make sure you whip it fully so that it looks like whipped butter – well almost.
- Add egg, milk, bread crumbs and whip until just everything is evenly mixed.
- Add beef and kimchi. Mix again until just combined but not whipped. You should still see bits of beef. Unlike the pork, we want ground beef to add texture so DO NOT over mix at this stage.
- Form balls by rolling them between your hands. You will get about 25 x 15 g size meatballs.
- Store covered in fridge until ready to use. Should be good for 1 day.
- Heat vegetable or canola oil in a deep fryer until it reaches 325° F. Fry for 5 min. or so until outside is slightly browned. Frying time may vary based on size of meatball and temperature.
- When done, transfer fried meatballs to a pan on medium high heat. Quickly add soy glaze to pan and roll meatballs around to coat evenly. Just shake the pan from side to side. Use about 1 Tbs glaze sauce for about 14 meatballs. Sauce will reduce and coat meatballs at the same time. Take off heat once the sauce has disappeared.
- Finish by sprinkling sesame seeds in pan to coat meatballs. Could be served with extra sauce on the side.
And there you have it folks!!