Sunday, January 6, 2013

Thai Inspired Meatballs with Peanut Sauce

2016 THAI RED CURRY PASTE UPDATE: I’m sorry to announce that the information provided in this post about Thai and True red curry paste is no longer correct. The jar now states 380 mg sodium per tablespoon. When I first wrote about this particular brand, the label specifically stated 5 mg sodium/tablespoon. Obviously, there’s been a change in their recipe. As a result, I no longer recommend this product.

The Spice House offers a salt free Thai Red Curry Powder that can be mixed with water to form a paste. The nice thing about the dry powder is that you only make what you need, and it's totally salt free. No leftover jars in the fridge or worrying about salt content. I order from the Spice House frequently, so I can vouch for their quality ingredients and good service.

Thai Inspired Meatballs

A few weeks ago my daughter-in-law gave me some wonderful fresh lemon grass stalks she got at her local farmer’s market. I decided I’d make Thai-inspired meatballs and started looking for a recipe online. I found several, but none of them included all the flavors I associate with Thai food: lemon grass, lime, chili peppers, fish sauce, ginger, onion, garlic, cilantro, basil, mint, and Thai red curry paste. I ended up using a recipe from AllRecipes as an inspiration with several modifications. Originally I’d planned on simmering the meatballs in a coconut/red curry sauce. But I decided instead to make a peanut dipping sauce. I remembered how much my husband & I enjoyed the peanut sauce from our favorite Vietnamese restaurant and hoped I could come close to duplicating it.

The meatballs were a hit, as was the peanut dipping sauce. We liked them so much, that I made them again two more times. The meatballs could be shaped as burgers, using the peanut sauce as a spread for buns. Mini, appetizer-size meatballs would work too. I baked them, but they could be fried. And, of course, they could be simmered for about 20 minutes in some chicken broth flavored with coconut milk and red curry paste.

About some Thai ingredients:

Fish Sauce – It’s extremely salty, so I don’t use it at all. Some people like to substitute soy sauce, but I’d rather just leave it out. It has a unique flavor that doesn’t lend itself to substitutions.

Lemon Grass – When it’s fresh, it’s great and easy to chop or process. Fresh stalks can be processed with a bit of oil and frozen flat in plastic bags. Then just break off chunks as needed. However, not everyone has access to fresh lemon grass. Most herb and spice companies sell dried lemon grass, so that might be an option. Gourmet Garden sells lemon grass in paste form, and the tubes can be found in most grocery produce sections. The problem is that ¾ tsp. of lemon grass paste is 90 mg of sodium. To actually get the flavor of lemon grass in a dish, you’d need to use at least 1 tablespoon of the product and that would result in 360 mg sodium. Litehouse now sells freeze dried minced lemon grass. I wouldn’t use lemon zest just because it doesn’t actually match the flavor of lemon grass. Besides, most Thai dishes include lime juice and zest, and I think too much fresh citrus flavor would be overpowering.

Thai Red Curry Paste – This is the foundation of so many delicious Thai recipes. Probably the most available brand is Thai Kitchen. But it has a 390 mg sodium per tablespoon. I thought I was pretty lucky when I discovered World Foods Thai Red Curry Paste at a local upscale grocery store. It has 230 mg sodium per tablespoon. But in researching this post, I discovered a brand that boasts only 5 mg sodium per tablespoon. Yes, that’s right! You read correctly: only 5 mg sodium per tablespoon! And as I checked out their products online, I happily discovered many other curry pastes with exactly the same low sodium content. This wonderful discovery opens up an entire world of flavorful food for those of us cooking low sodium. The brand is Thai and True, and the company hails from Portland, Oregon. They have 7 different curry pastes and several sauces, including a very low sodium sweet red chili sauce. You can order directly from the website or many of the products are available from Amazon. Of course, you can always make your own red curry paste. More work, but also more of a guarantee of low sodium. Lots of recipes are available online.


(Printable Recipe)

1 lb. ground salt free turkey/chicken/pork
1/3 cup fresh low sodium breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. minced lemon grass (optional - see notes above)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp. minced shallots/thinly sliced green onions
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint (optional)
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp. ginger
1 tbsp. Thai Red Curry Paste (optional - see notes above)
Zest of 1 lime (reserve juice for peanut sauce)

Combine breadcrumbs, eggs, and all the ingredients except meat. Mix well.  Break up meat and add in small clumps. Mix well. (I wear vinyl disposable gloves and use my hands.)  Let the mixture sit for at least 15 minutes in order to allow breadcrumbs to absorb excess moisture.

Form 12 meatballs. Place on greased cookie sheet (I lined my baking pan with Reynold’s non-stick foil. Parchment paper would probably work too.) Bake for approximately 20 minutes in a 425 degree oven until done. 


This peanut sauce is adapted from one posted by Cooking Forum member, Triciae. It’s easy to adjust to your personal tastes, especially a low sodium diet. Yet it still packs a flavor punch.

(Printable Recipe)

1/3 cup salt-free, natural creamy peanut butter
¼ cup NSA chicken broth or water, warmed in the microwave a bit
1-2 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce (I use Chinatown)
1-2 tbsp. brown sugar
1-2 tbsp. minced ginger (sub ¼ - ½ tsp ground for each tbsp fresh)
1-2 tbsp. lime juice (sub unseasoned rice vinegar for some or all of lime juice)
1-2 cloves garlic
¼ - ½ tsp. hot chili flakes or oil
1 tsp. Thai red curry paste (I use World Foods brand or sometimes sub Gourmet Garden Thai Seasoning stir-in paste)
1-2 green onions, coarsely chopped (optional)

Place all ingredients in blender & blend until smooth. (I often use my hand-held stick blender.) If desired, warm the sauce in the microwave. Thin, if necessary, with additional chicken broth or water. Start with lowest amounts of soy sauce, sugar, ginger, lime juice, garlic, and hot chili. Adjust to suit your tastes.


The Daily Dish said...

Going to try the suace with low-so veg broth instead - I'm sure it'll be every bit as tasty! Thanks so much, Sue. Another winner for sure!

shambo said...

Christy, I think the sauce would be fine with just plain water. It's such a small amount, that I don't think it really matters much. Hope you enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

I checked out the Thai and True Red Curry paste online and the label says 380 mg of sodium per tablespoon. Your post says 5mg sodium per tablespoon. What am I missing? Could you please clarify? Thanks.

shambo said...

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I just checked the website and will post an update later. What happened is what often happens when dealing with lower sodium products -- the formula has changed, and the sodium content has gone up. That happened with another product too, Sol de Oro tortillas. It also happened to the other red curry paste I had mentioned, World Foods.

I ordered the Thai & True Red Curry Paste right after writing that post, and the label specifically stated 5 mg/tbsp. I'm sorry that the formula has changed, but, unfortunately, that's pretty typical when dealing with low sodium products. If they don't sell well enough, the manufacturer will either discontinue the product altogether or reformulate it to appeal to a broader customer base.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for clarifying. If you find any low sodium source for Thai pastes and sauces please post your findings. Thanks again for your help. I cannot wait to try your recipe for the Thai meatballs - it all depends on whether we can find a low sodium source.

shambo said...

You're not going to believe this! I went to the store where I used to purchase the World Foods Thai red curry paste. I had checked Amazon & the World Foods website. Both gave 230 mg sodium/tablespoon or 15 gram serving. Not great but better than the 380 mg for Thai & True or the 330 mg for Thai Kitchen. I figured it'd be worth buying as long as I kept its use to just one tbsp per dish.

Anyhow, I picked up a jar and checked its nutritional label. It gave 190 mg sodium/15 gram serving. Now I'm totally confused. Which measure is correct? 230 mg or 190? Either way, both are different from what I reported 2 years ago.

This is a great example of how frustrating it can be to keep track of products. I decided to purchase the World Foods jar just because no matter what, it's still lower in sodium than the other red curry pastes available.

You might want to check out Healthy Heart Market. They sell a number of salt-free Mr. Spice sauces including a Thai peanut sauce. I regularly use the Mr. Spice steak sauce and BBQ sauce, and I order from Healthy Heart Market several times a year. There are other Mr. Spice Asian inspired sauces available at Amazon too. Here's the URL for Healthy Heart:

Also, the Spice House sells a salt free Thai red curry powder that can be mixed with water to form a paste. The nice thing about the dry powder is that you only make what you need, and it's totally salt free. No leftover jars in the fridge or worrying about salt content. I order from the Spice House frequently. Here's the URL:

Hope this helps. And if your find something great, please let me know. We're in this together.