When I lived in Vietnam, I loved these little balls – traditionally made of pork larded with pork fat and served with a nuoc cham dipping sauce and cooked over charcoal. My children adore them, and we often served them on Christmas Eve with other Asian favourites. But now I am on the anti-CanSur maintenance diet, pork is forbidden – and to a certain extent so is charcoal cooking.
So, with a little bit of jiggling and adaptation, I’ve modified this to produce a delicious and healthy organic chicken version with cooling papaya and lettuce salad wraps. The papaya adds a delicate sweet dimension that is thoroughly refreshing on a hot day. Papaya is readily available in all the major supermarkets.
These balls are simple and relatively quick to make. The raw chicken balls can be made in advance and rested in the fridge overnight. The salad can be assembled whilst the chicken balls are cooking.
Serve the chicken balls wrapped in the lettuce cups piled with sprouts, cucumber, papaya, mint leaves and spring onions, then spoon over a little sauce and roll if big enough, or simply use the lettuce leaves as a ‘cup’.
The roasted rice powder can be made in a larger batch and kept for another time. Obviously it adds carbohydrates, but it is such a small amount that I do not worry about it. The dipping sauce should be really hot, as once it is spooned over the salad it loses some of its heat.
The dipping sauce uses fermented fish sauce, which for those who avoid soy is a great substitute for soy sauce. I use a quality fish sauce - nuoc mam - Longdan Supreme 40N Fish Sauce, which has a gorgeous, superior flavour to the usual supermarket brands, and makes a real difference to the finished product. Google it. It is available on the internet.
This is perfect as a healthy and refreshing summer lunch or al fresco supper, or as a barbeque starter for a large party.
Serves 3 - 4
For the Chicken Balls
2 oz organic rice made into 1½ tablespoon roasted rice powder **
1 large organic shallot, finely chopped
4 cloves of organic garlic, finely chopped
500g lean organic chicken mince, or chicken pieces processed in a Vitamix
1 oz coconut oil, softened but not melted
2 tablespoon quality fish sauce (Longdan Supreme 40N Fish Sauce)
Himalayan pink salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 small organic Gem lettuce or large organic Romaine lettuce
four organic spring onions, shredded
3 inch length of organic cucumber, seeded and cut into thin batons
½ large papaya peeled, seeded and cut into batons
handful of bean sprouts
handful of broccoli and alfalfa sprouts
handful of fresh mint leaves
1 cup of Healing Intent **
2 tbs quality fish sauce (Longdan Supreme 40N Fish Sauce)
1 tbs organic Tamari sauce (Clearspring)
3 tbs fresh organic lime juice
1 clove organic garlic
2 - 3 fresh birds eye chilli
1-2 tsp of raw honey
1. ** Soak 2 oz of rice (it doesn’t matter if it is brown or white) in warm water for about an hour. Drain the rice and dry on paper towel then tip into a saucepan. Put it on a medium heat and ‘roast’ for about 15 minutes until golden. Keep your eye on it and stir often. Once cooled, tip into a coffee or spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Use 1½ tablespoon in the chicken ball mixture and keep the rest for another time.
2. Add the chicken mince, shallot, garlic, Tamari, salt and pepper, softened coconut oil, and rice powder into a bowl and mix well using your hands.
3. Wet your hands with water and form small balls of the chicken mixture and place on a small oiled tray. Place the tray in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes, or cover with greaseproof paper and then clingfilm (so that the clingfilm does not touch the food) and leave overnight.
4. Heat a frying pan and fry the chicken balls until golden. They will release some of the fat, so there is no need to add fat to cook this. This should take around 10 minutes. Ensure that the balls are thoroughly cooked before serving.
5. To make the sauce: mix the lime juice, tamari, quality fish sauce, chopped chilli, chopped garlic and raw honey and blitz in a small food processor to ensure evenly mixed.
6. To serve: layer the salad ingredients beginning with the lettuce cups, then cucumber, papaya, sprouts, spring onion and mint leaves. Place the cooked chicken balls in the middle together with a bowl filled with the dipping sauce.
** Healing Intent: when cooking foods to heal the body it is important to set your intent. The best way to do this is imagine that you are cooking this dish for yourself or for someone you love who is very ill and that this dish is the only thing that will help in their healing. You will find that the way you handle the food will change, and will not only result in a better dish, but you will feel the food actually nourishing your body and spirit.