Weeknight dinners can be tough. If you are a young family like ours, your days are likely filled with work, school, volunteer commitments, after-school activities and a social life. Sadly, dinner is often overlooked. When tummies are hungry, it is too easy to resort to run-of-the-mill chicken breasts or pasta. Don’t get me wrong – chicken and pasta have their place in the dinner rotation. However, I’m always on the lookout for unique recipes that I can put together in a snap. This Bahn Mi Meatball bowl is one of those recipes. *Yay!!!*
Bahn Mi is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich with roasted meat and pickled vegetables, typically served on a French baguette. Sounds good, right? This bowl is a twist on the traditional Bahn Mi sandwich – deconstructed for a quick weeknight dinner. The meatballs are juicy, garlicky and have that unique umami flavor (don’t leave out the fish sauce, trust me on this one!). They are amazing on their own. But surround them with soft, fluffy rice and crunchy, pickled vegetables, and you have just constructed the perfect combination of textures and flavors.
This Bahn Mi Meatball bowl is easy to prepare, and can be modified based on your personal preferences. The meatballs cook quickly, starting in a skillet and finishing in the oven. I made our meatballs with ground pork, but you could easily substitute ground chicken or turkey. I’ve even seen Vietnamese flavored sausages in the grocery store that would work nicely in this dish. I forgot to mention the best part – make a double batch of meatballs and freeze the leftovers for a quick meal on a busy weeknight! The meatballs will last up to three months in the freezer.
Whatever substitutions you make, however, don’t skip the pickled vegetables! They add a necessary crunch and sweet/sour punch to the dish that would be missing otherwise. The pickling process itself takes no time. Simply throw your cut veggies in a mason jar or glass bowl, fill it with vinegar, add a little salt, sugar, maybe some red pepper flakes if you desire, and you’re done. The vegetables pickle in your fridge while you assemble the rest of the dish (or catch up on your favorite book or Netflix queue).
The key to this dish is building the layers of flavor as you assemble it for your loved ones. Start with a bowl full of fluffy rice (or cauliflower rice), then layer on the meatballs and pickled vegetables. Finish off the dish with a drizzle of spicy Sriracha Mayo (you may want to leave this off or serve it on the side for those who are spice averse) and a sprinkling of crunchy green onions and this Vietnamese classic will quickly become a family favorite.