Vietnamese Meatballs – Xiu Mai

IMG_8993A typical Vietnamese Sunday morning brunch is more savory, than sweet.  Cereal? Pancakes or waffles?  Eggs and bacon?  what’s that?  My boyfriend and I playfully tease each other about having “white” breakfast/brunch versus a “yellow” one.  And our friends like to give me a lot of flak for not having a white man’s breakfast as often as possible!

Growing up, Sunday mornings were sacred for an aromatic bowl of beef pho or banh canh (udon) . . . another one of my favorite morning meals is Xiu Mai (no one makes it as good as my mama).   There are TONS of variations on Xiu Mai.  It is actually better known in Chinese restaurants.  It’s usually the littlest of the Asian dim sum cart ladies hurling loud cries for “Har Gow!  Shumai!” as she pushes her tray by your table.  It’s weird and awesome.  😛

Upon some quick research, I discovered that “xiu mai” simply means meatball.  The Vietnamese variation was born in Northern Vietnam (probably a grab from the Chinese) . . . it is pretty tasty and can be made with a  plethora of ingredients.  Here is my take on it . . . taught to me by Mai Lam, my wonderful mama.


  • 1 lb of ground pork (makes 6-8 good sized meatballs)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • minced garlic
  • thick soy sauce (nuoc mau)
  • oyster flavor sauce
  • fish sauce
  • Chinese bbq (Char Siu) powder
  • black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder
  • Serve with French Bread


  • In a pot, add a few drops of sesame oil and  1/2 tsp of minced garlic. Sauté until garlic is golden, then add 2 cups of water, 1 tbsp of oyster flavor sauce and 1 tbsp of thick soy sauce, cover pot and let boil.  I use a steamer pot, if you don’t have a steamer, you can stew them in a pan after you pan-fry them first.


  • Chop and dice the yellow onion into tiny cubes
  • Add pork, diced onions, minced garlic to a medium-sized mixing bowl
  • Add these ingredients to the bowl:  1 tbsp of minced garlic, 1 tbsp of fish sauce, 1 tbsp of oyster flavor sauce, half of the Chinese BBQ package, 1/2 tsp of black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder


  • Mix well with the pork and chopped onions


  1. Form balls in your palm, probably about 3 inches in diameter.  Place the meatballs on the steamer level.
  2. Cover your pot and cook for 10 minutes
  3. Remove the meatballs from your steamer pan and place gently into the broth below.  Don’t just dump them in, you will splash and burn yourself.
  4. If you do not have a steamer,  place the meatballs in a little bit of oil in a pan and sear all sides to help the meatballs keep their shape. Once seared, transfer them into your pot of water to finish cooking.
  5. Continue to let the meatballs cook in the broth for 15-20 minutes

Serve in small, shallow bowls with toasted slices of French bread.  I like to add freshly ground pepper, fried onion and sriracha to the top of my meatballs when I serve them.  You’ll more readily find xiu mai at a Vietnamese restaurant squeezed inside of a french bread sammich!

banh mi

You are going to love this dish!  It is an easy recipe!

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