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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Melissa Thompson

Melissa Thompson’s recipe for lemongrass meatballs in a tamarind and coconut sauce

Melissa Thompson's lemongrass meatballs with tamarind and coconut sauce.
Just add rice and beans: Melissa Thompson’s lemongrass meatballs with a tamarind and coconut sauce. Photograph: Ola O Smit/The Guardian. Food styling: Esther Clark. Prop styling: Anna Wilkins. Food assistant: Caitlin Macdonald.

Flavoured with lemongrass, ginger and garlic, then lightly fried and poached in a coconut sauce spiked with tangy tamarind, these meatballs are delicious yet light. The sauce is thin and abundant for a reason – eat this dish from a bowl with a spoon to scoop up mouthfuls of rice drenched in the sauce.

Lemongrass meatballs in a tamarind and coconut sauce

Be careful not to get tamarind paste mixed up with tamarind concentrate: the former is mid- to dark brown and pourable, while the latter is almost black, glossy and too thick to pour. If using the concentrate, use one and a half teaspoons in total.

Prep 10 min
Cook 50 min
Serves 4

1 stalk lemongrass, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, 2 left whole, the other 2 minced
25g ginger, half roughly chopped, the rest finely grated
4 tsp tamarind paste (see recipe intro)
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
500g pork mince
g breadcrumbs
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground pimento (allspice)
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp sugar
3 shallots
, peeled, 1 finely diced, the other 2 halved and thinly sliced
Vegetable oil
2 spring onions
, trimmed and finely sliced
200ml chicken stock
1 tsp cider vinegar
300g green beans
, topped and halved
Plain steamed rice
, to serve

In a blender, blitz the lemongrass, whole garlic cloves, roughly chopped ginger, a teaspoon of tamarind paste and three tablespoons of coconut milk until smooth.

Put the pork mince and breadcrumbs in a large bowl, stir in the coconut and lemongrass mixture, then add half the spices and black pepper, a teaspoon of salt, a scant pinch of sugar and the diced shallot and combine until thoroughly mixed. Roll into balls slightly smaller than golf balls, each weighing 30-35g.

Put a splash of vegetable oil in a frying pan on a medium heat, add the meatballs and fry, keeping them moving so the outside cooks and they colour only slightly. Lift out of the pan, leaving as much oil behind as possible.

Add a splash more oil to the pan, if need be, then add the sliced shallots and a teaspoon of salt, and sweat for five minutes, scraping off any stuck browned bits of meatball from the bottom of the pan as you go; add a splash of water, if necessary. Add the spring onion (reserve some of the green parts for serving), grated ginger and minced garlic and cook for another five minutes. Add the remaining spices and a splash of water, stir and cook until fragrant. Add the remaining coconut milk and tamarind, turn up the heat to medium-high and cook for a couple of minutes longer. Add the chicken stock and vinegar, and cook until the liquid thickens slightly.

Add the meatballs to the pot, scraping in any resting juices, too, and poach on a medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the halved green beans and cook for five or so minutes, until tender.

Turn off the heat and leave to rest for five minutes before serving in bowls over plain white rice with generous amounts of the sauce. Garnish with the reserved spring onion greens.

• This article was amended on 16 April 2023 to correct the weight of the breadcrumbs. An earlier version listed 300g.

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