Sweet & Sour Vegetarian Meatballs

Sweet and sour pork is a favorite of many. So are meatballs! This recipe melds the best of both worlds by replacing the battered pork pieces with meatballs instead. This lends a heartier mouthfeel to the dish, making it more fulfilling so that it can even be eaten on its own, although the sauce is better when paired with a bowl of fluffy rice. Best thing is? The entire recipe is vegetarian!

Vegetarian meat is made in many ways. Some with soybean solids, beans or various types of grains to ensure a high protein content that emulates the real deal. These faux meats can rack up a high price at times due to its complicated formula and costly production. This is also where the misconception that committing to this diet and lifestyle is “costly” comes from. Hence why most vegetarians don’t like to rely on faux meat but on natural whole foods instead, not only because of its price, but also because they tend to be overly processed and rather unhealthy.

For this meatball recipe, we’ll be using a secret ingredient – Daikon!

Also known as white radish, the daikon is grated and mixed into a batter before it’s deep fried for a crunchy exterior and soft, tender filling. A truckload of spices are infused and it’s finished off with a brief coating of chinese-style sweet and sour sauce! But don’t be fooled, chinese-style sweet and sour sauce is almost always simply made from ketchup with a few tweaks. Sometimes, white vinegar or plum sauce is added but unnecessary.

Sweet & Sour Vegetarian Meatballs

Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 3

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized white radish
  • 2 tablespoons of coriander finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp of chinese five spice powder
  • 1 tbsp of white pepper
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tbsp of light soy sauce
  • Half a pineapple
  • ¼ large red bell pepper chopped roughly

Sauce:

  • ¼ cup of tomato sauce
  • 1 ½ tbsp white caster sugar
  • ½ cup of water
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch slurry 2:1 ratio of water to cornstarch

Instructions

  1. Wash the daikon, peel and grate it. Then squeeze out ⅔ of the water.

  2. Add finely chopped coriander, egg, flour and all the seasonings.

  3. Fold the batter until just mixed through and let it rest.

  4. Thoroughly wash a pineapple and hollow out half of one side. Chop the flesh removed from this half into chunks.

  5. Scoop out the batter with a teaspoon and deep-fry on medium heat until evenly golden brown.

  6. Remove the excess oil from the wok and stir-fry the pepper and pineapple on high heat for 3-4 minutes

  7. Make the sweet and sour sauce by cooking the ketchup, sugar, water and cornstarch together.

  8. Toss the meatballs and vegetables briefly in the sauce.

  9. Dish out the meatballs into the pineapple bowl, garnish and serve.

STEP ONE – GRATE THE DAIKON

When choosing your daikon, choose one that is relatively unbruised with firm skin. A longer daikon will also ease the grating process. Simply wash and peel the vegetable, then grate it finely. Not too finely till it resembles minced garlic, but not too long either as the grated daikon shouldn’t be too noticeable after the cooking process. Then, squeeze out ⅔ of the moisture and set aside.

STEP TWO – ADD THE  CORIANDER, EGG AND DRY INGREDIENTS.

In a large bowl, mix the grated daikon, egg, flour, coriander and seasonings altogether. Omit the coriander if you’d prefer and feel free to add in other seasonings to your preference such as sesame oil or chili powder.

STEP THREE – MIX THE BATTER AND LET REST

Using chopsticks or a fork, fold the batter until homogenous and no more flour is visible. As opposed to meatballs using real meat, this batter should be folded instead of mixed in one direction. You want to prevent from forming too much gluten which results in a tough “meatball”  Remember, this is not real meat and hence should not be treated as such.

STEP FOUR – HOLLOW OUT HALF A PINEAPPLE

Chinese-style sweet and sour recipes never involve meat alone and are always complemented with vegetables to balance out the dish. Here, we’re using pineapple chunks and red pepper which are very common. Choose a ripe pineapple and thoroughly wash the exterior. Halve it neatly and use a small serrated knife and a spoon to hollow out the middle of one. Chop the flesh into chunks and keep the pineapple “bowl” in the fridge until time for plating.

STEP FIVE – DEEP FRY THE BATTER INTO MEATBALLS

Prepare a wok of hot oil on medium heat. Using a teaspoon, scoop out spoonfuls of the batter and carefully drop it into the oil. You can test if the oil is ready by holding the end of a wooden chopstick into the oil. If small bubbles surface, it’s hot enough. The batter will most likely not be able to form perfect balls as it is slightly liquidy. Refrain from adding too much flour as it won’t make much of a difference and will only result in a tough, chewy meatball. Deep fry till evenly golden brown and drain the excess oil on some kitchen pepper.

STEP SIX – STIR-FRY THE VEGETABLES

Remove off all the oil left in the wok, the residual oil coating the wok would be sufficient just to fry the vegetables. Add the pineapple chunks and red pepper in and stir-fry on high heat for about 3-4 minutes till the colors deepen and the vegetables soften slightly. The pepper should still be crunchy whereas this step helps to remove a little bit of the acidity from the pineapple.

STEP SEVEN – MAKE THE SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE

Without adding any extra oil into the wok, pour in the ketchup and sugar. Cook on medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, pour in the water. Continuously stir to prevent scorching the bottom and once you see foam and bubble start to form on the top, slowly drizzle in the cornstarch bit by bit until you’re satisfied with the consistency.

STEP EIGHT – COAT THE MEATBALLS AND VEGETABLES IN THE SAUCE

Turn off the heat and add the meatballs and vegetables back into the wok. Fold briefly just until everything is coated. The meatball exterior will absorb the sauce and get soggy if it’s soaked in there for too long.

STEP NINE – DISH OUT AND SERVE

Dish out the sweet and sour meatballs into the pineapple bowl and garnish with white sesame seeds or coriander sprigs. Serve immediately with fluffy hot rice!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Instead of making these meatballs sweet and sour style, there are many different ways you could serve them! To name a few, Kung Po sauce, sweet soy, or garlic and chili. You could even serve them fresh from the fryer with just a dipping of light soy sauce, black vinegar, ginger strips, spring onions and chopped bird’s eye chilies.

Feel free to mix up the choice of vegetables. Cucumbers, green peppers and white onions are also very popular and complement the dish well.

For more delicious vegetarian recipes, try out our Vegetarian Bibimbap or our Healing Yellow Split Pea Soup!

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