Hunan Meatballs with Sweet and Spicy Sauce

Hunan cuisine is characterized by the use of fresh, aromatic ingredients, a harmonious balance of flavors with a spicy but not too fiery touch. The combination of “sweet and spicy” is the American twist in this dish. The original Hunan recipe calls for a spicy sauce only. This a variation of the ubiquitous General Tso’s chicken dish.

Servings: 4 (makes about 16-20 meatballs)

Time: 30 minutes


Hunan Meatballs

  • 1 lb (450 g) ground pork or chicken
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp red curry paste or to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup (20 g) finely sliced scallions
  • 2 Tbsp Panko
  • Extra Panko for coating the meatballs
  • 4 Tbsp vegetable oil to fry the meatballs


  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red pepper, cut into slivers
  • 3 heads of baby bok choy, sliced in half, separating the greens from the white bottom
  • 2 cups (120 g) snow peas, trimmed
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • dash of sesame oil (optional)
  • 1/4 cup (70 g) scallions, sliced for garnish

Sweet and Spicy Sauce

  • 4 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) chicken broth or water
  • 6 Tbsp white or brown sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes or cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch


Place all the ingredients needed for the meatballs with the exception of the extra Panko in the food processor. Pulse it only a few times, just enough so that all is well mixed. In case you mix it by hand, make sure that the onions are finely chopped.

Set a bowl with cold water on the side to wet your hands. Form golf size balls with slightly wet hands and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pour the extra Panko on a plate to coat the meatballs. Roll them gently making sure they are coated on all sides. Return them to the baking sheet and place them in the fridge for 15 minutes to adhere the coating.

While the meatballs are in the fridge, prepare the Sweet and Spicy Sauce. Pour all ingredients in a medium saucepan and whisk to combine. Cook it over medium-low heat for about 3-5 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Once the sauce has thickened to your taste, remove from the heat. Let it cool and adjust spiciness if necessary.

Preheat oven at 375° F/190° C, putting the rack in the middle.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Drop the Panko coated meatballs in the oil. Cook, turning them gently so they brown on all sides. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and bake them for an additional 5-8 minutes in the oven. Meatballs are not eaten hot. Let them cool a bit before serving with the spicy sauce.

Wash bok choy well. Cut the bottom core and separate each stalk. Look for residual sand and wash it again. Dry on paper towels. Cut bok choy stalks lenghtwise in the middle. Separate the green part from the white part. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the red peppers slivers, bok choy white bottoms, snow peas and garlic. Cook stirring often for about 3 minutes or until the veggies just start to soften. Add the bok choy green part and continue to cook until the greens are just wilted. Veggies should be crisp-tender. Season with salt and pepper and a dash of sesame oil if you like.

Serve meatballs on a bed of the sauteed bok choy, snow peas and red peppers, sprinkle with scallions. Pour some sauce on the meatballs and serve the remainder on the side.

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