Put your hand up if you love meatballs! This is spaghetti and meatballs, Japanese style, a great recipe adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks, Jane Lawson's Yoshoku. I use my usual spaghetti and meatball recipe and add the Japanese ingredients that she recommends: sake, dashi, mirin, soy sauce and panko (crunchy Japanese breadcrumbs). I would recommend chicken instead of pork or beef for the meat in the meatballs; the comparatively mild flavour of chicken is a nice canvas for showing off all of the great Japanese flavours.
Chicken meatballs in a gingery tomato sauce
serves two with leftovers
1 package (~500 g) ground chicken
1 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (or whatever kind you have on hand)
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp sake
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1-inch piece of ginger, grated (optional)
A handful of finely chopped fresh parsley (optional)
oil for frying
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
a sprinkling of red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried thyme
1- or 2-inch piece of ginger, grated
1/4 cup mirin (a sweet Japanese cooking wine)
1 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp dashi granules
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
2 green onions, finely sliced for garnish
2 handfuls of Japanese udon or soba noodles, each handful about the diameter of a quarter each, freshly cooked
To make the meatballs, put all of the meatball ingredients in large mixing bowl, and mix together with clean hands to combine. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and put it the bowl in the fridge until ready to cook.
To make the sauce, heat some oil in the bottom of a large, high-sided saucepan. Fry the onion for five minutes until softened and glassy, then add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme and ginger, and saute for one minute but do not let the garlic burn.
Add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, mirin, dashi, soy sauce and sugar, and half a cup of cold water. Increase the heat and let come to a boil. Simmer for half an hour or until reduced and slightly thickened.
While the sauce is thickening, put on the water for the udon noodles. Form the meatball mixture into small tablespoon-sized meatballs and brown them in batches in a thin layer of hot oil in a frying pan, about five minutes per batch. Turn the meatballs two or three times until they are nicely browned.
Add the meatballs to the simmering sauce and let the two cook together a few minutes while you cook and drain the udon noodles.
Serve the meatballs and sauce on top of the noodles and garnish with finely chopped green onions.