Last week I sprained my back. Please don’t feel sorry for me. That’s how these Thai turkey meatballs wrapped with sticky rice and cucumber in lettuce came to be.
But first, about my back injury. I don’t know if I mentioned it, but a couple of months ago I turned 40. FORTY. That’s a big number. I’m not upset about it, but I definitely don’t feel 40 on the inside, which is what led me to think that I could participate in a house funk dance class at my gym.
I cannot participate in a house funk dance class at my gym. No 40-year-old should.
The first warning sign came when I entered the class and the teacher told us to “leave our inhibitions at the door.” I have a lot of inhibitions when it comes to hip swivels and jazzy foot stomps. My failure to do as instructed meant that I hesitantly — too hesitantly — popped a lock (or something like that, who knows what the man was shouting at near-deafening speed). And thus, my back said to me, “Girl, you are 40” and promptly gave out, leaving me lying face up in a puddle of my own shame.
But, as any mom knows, there’s no time for back injuries. When I got home later that morning, I tried to think of something that would be easy to make without resulting in a lot of turning, swiveling, hip popping or, quite frankly, movement. These Thai turkey meatball wraps were the result. I used my trusty Instant Pot to make sticky rice (although regular white rice would do just fine too) and threw together these Thai turkey meatballs using my hands while I had a heating pad wrapped around my back.
Sometimes, when life throws you a curveball like a sudden back injury, you have to hit that curveball with every ounce of your being and hope that somehow you’ll at least get a line drive out of it. My line drive was these Thai turkey meatballs. The kids loved them — they loved assembling these wraps on their own, and any meat in a ball-shaped form is automatically kid-friendly.
As for my back, I’m better now, thankfully. Have I learned my lesson?
I don’t know — those funk beats are pretty irresistible…
- 1 pound ground turkey (turkey mince)
- 1 tbsp minced lemongrass (substitute lemongrass paste if necessary)
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup coriander/cilantro, leaves and stem finely chopped
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs, plus extra if needed
- 1 small egg
- 2 cups glutinous rice (or regular white rice)
- Baby lettuce leaves, washed and dried on paper towels
- 1 cucumber
- 2 Thai or birds eye chillies, seeded and minced
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 lime, juiced
- Cook the rice in a rice cooker or in a heavy saucepan (using 2.5 cups water for 2 cups of rice).
- While the rice is cooking, beat the egg lightly in a small bowl.
- In a medium sized bowl, mix together the turkey, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, cilantro (coriander), sugar, fish paste and bread crumbs. Add the egg and mix gently to combine all of the ingredients. If the mixture seems really wet, sprinkle on up to another ¼ cup of panko breadcrumbs so that the mixture sticks nicely together but isn't super dry.
- Form the ground turkey mixture into meatballs about 1.5 inches in diameter (4 cm). Put a large, ovenproof skillet with a tight-fitting lid on the stove and turn the heat on medium-high. Remove the lid and drizzle in some olive oil (around 2 tablespoons) and heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs, browning them on all sides. Splash about ¼ cup water into the skillet and cover the meatballs with the lid and turn the heat down to medium-low, letting the meatballs steam for 4-5 minutes until cooked through. Remove from heat and keep the skillet covered to let the meatballs stay warm.
- Make the dipping sauce. In a small saucepan, add the brown sugar, fish sauce and lime over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the chillies and let everything sit for a few minutes, then taste. If the dipping sauce tastes too strong, add a splash of water.
- Chop the cucumber. Serve the meatballs on lettuce with rice and cucumbers. Drizzle the dipping sauce over the wraps or serve on the side.
Looking for other Asian-inspired recipes? Check these out:
- Thai Fish with Basil Sauce
- Vietnamese Rainbow Noodle Jars
- Chinese Noodles with Ground Pork
- Chinese-Style Pork Meatballs with Collard Greens