Korean “Meatballs”

These “meatballs” are a perfect side dish to your Korean dinner. It’s easy to make and contain no special ingredients that requires a trip to a Korean grocery store.

It feels weird to call this dish a “meatball” since it’s more of a mini patty but often English translation of Korean food leaves more to be desired. This simple dish is a favorite of mine from childhood. My family would gather around the table during Korean Thanksgiving and make these tiny meatballs. I remember trying my best to keep up with the adults but I could never keep up with my tiny hands. I would give up after making two or three meatballs and instead “help” my mom who was in charge of pan frying the meatballs by sneaking in a bite.

 

What I love about Korean “meatballs” compared to American (or Italian, really) meatballs is that they’re not heavy. Korean meatballs consist mostly of tofu and veggies and very little meat. It was a perfect meal to eat during lunch at school. Filling, but not too heavy.  I remember opening my do-shi-rak (lunch box) with a gigantic smile as a kid when my mom packed it for me with white rice and a side of squid stir-fry. Sadly, I never had the same reaction when I moved to the states and opened a brown bag to find a PB&J sandwich, fruit cup and a Caprisun.

If you’re lucky enough to live near a Korean grocery store, you might find Korean meatballs in the frozen section next to the dumplings. In Korean, they’re called Dong-geu-rang-ddeng. Yeah, try to say that three times in a row. We’ll just stick with saying Korean meatballs. Be warned, my recipe makes the meatballs much larger than the store bought ones because, why not. I have a big mouth and a big belly. If you choose, you can make it smaller, the cooking time is the same because the thickness remains the same.

Alright, here we go.

For the meatballs, you’ll need:

  • 2 stalks of green onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 small onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • half block of firm tofu
  • 1/2 lb of ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper

You’ll also need:

  • 1/3 cup of all purpose flour to coat the meatballs
  • 2 eggs to make the egg mixture to dip the flour coated meatballs before frying
  • 2 tbsp of oil to pan fry the meatballs

Recommended but not required:

  • cheesecloth to drain water from tofu. You can use several layers of paper towels or a thin kitchen towel instead.

Before you start,

Make sure you read this part carefully. All vegetables need to be finely minced. Especially the carrot. If the carrot is cut too big, it won’t cook all the way through and you’ll have a crunchy meatball. Nobody likes a crunchy meatball. Also, when I say 1 carrot, I mean 1 American sized carrot. Korean ones are gigantic, like the ones you see Bugs Bunny chomping on. All my measurements will be American measurements, although the metric system is far superior… End of rant! Anyways… I minced my veggies with a knife because that’s what I’m comfortable with. Feel free to experiment with a food processor if you must, just make sure it doesn’t get too pulpy. Your veggies will be too wet and the meatball mixture will fall apart. Also your tofu must be drained of the excess water. I used a cheesecloth. If your tofu retains too much water it will break apart in the frying pan. It’ll end up being more of a meat “crumble” rather than meat “ball”, It’ll still taste as good though, just eat it with a spoon, or mix in with your rice, who cares.

 

Check out the recipe below:

Korean Meatballs

Korean Meatballs

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

This recipe is easy to make, does not require any hard to find Korean ingredients. Serve with a soy sauce based dipping sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 stalks of green onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 small onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 block of firm tofu
  • 1/2 lb of ground pork
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 tbsp cooking oil of your choice

Instructions

    1. Mince all the vegetables. Make sure the carrot is well minced.
    2. Use a cheesecloth (thin kitchen towel or layered paper towels) to squeeze the water out of the tofu.
    3. In a large mixing bowl, add the minced vegetables, tofu, ground pork, one egg, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Use a wooden spatula or your hand to mix all the ingredients.
    4. Using your hands, form a 2 inch by 2 inch circular patty. Set aside. About half inch thick. You may end up with 14-16 meatballs.
    5. Spread all purpose flour evenly on a plate.
    6. Mix two eggs in a bowl with a whisk.
    7. Add 2 tbsp of oil to a non-stick frying pan on low-medium heat. Note: Make sure you wipe off your pan and reapply oil with each batch to prevent burnt bits on the last batch of the meatballs.
    8. Gently pick up your formed patties, lightly coat in flour, quickly dip it in the egg mixture making sure both sides are dipped. Gently set it on a greased pan. Repeat until the pan is full, set it about an inch apart. Do not overcrowd. In my case I could fit 6 patties at a time. I made 3 batches total.
    9. Cook on low-medium heat for 5 minutes, flip and cook for another 5. Meatballs are finished when the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F.
    10. Line a plate with paper towel before moving it from the pan to the plate, paper towel will soak up the grease.
    11. Serve with a side of soy sauce, white rice, and of course, kimchi.

Notes

Be generous with oil between each batch especially if you have a larger pan and require less batches.

 

Side note: I ended up with about 14 meatballs. Only plated 10 because 4 went straight to my mouth from the sizzling pan. No regrets.

Check out my YouTube video in the recipe card!

 

 

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