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These Asian-inspired meatballs offer big flavor for the big game

Asian Spice Meatballs are served with Hoisin Honey Sauce. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 4
Asian Spice Meatballs are made with equal amounts of ground pork and beef. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 4
Asian Spice Meatballs are marinated in Hoisin Honey Sauce. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 4
Asian Spice Meatballs are made with equal amounts of ground pork and beef, marinated in Hoisin Honey Sauce and garnished with scallions and sesame seeds. Bamboo skewers give them an additional air of authenticity. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor4 / 4

FARGO — Meatballs are one of my favorite party foods. They’re the perfect finger food and nearly every culture has its own version of a meatball, including two favorites we’ve featured here, Gio’s Italian Meatballs and Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs.

My son, Gio, and I love Asian food, so I thought I’d play with some popular Asian flavors to create a new party meatball to add to our spread for this weekend’s Super Bowl festivities. A savory blend of sweet and salty spice, these Asian Spice Meatballs with Hoisin Honey Sauce were an instant hit in our family.

For this recipe, I use a combination of ground beef and pork, mixed with a variety of ingredients to build flavor and bind everything together, including panko breadcrumbs, sesame oil, ground ginger, egg, garlic, soy sauce, green onions and five-spice powder. Using a blend of meats enhances the flavor and texture of the meatballs, making them extra juicy.

Five-spice powder is a blend of five classic spices commonly used in Chinese cuisine, including star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel and pepper, to represent the five key flavors of sweet, salty, bitter, sour and spicy. Five-spice powder gives these meatballs their distinctive Asian flavor, and you can find it in most grocery stores, located in the Asian or international foods section.

This recipe makes about 30 one-inch meatballs, which are baked in the oven until golden brown and fully cooked. I use a small ice cream scoop to ensure that each meatball is evenly sized, and then roll them between my palms to form them into balls. The meatballs can be made and formed in advance, and refrigerated for up to two days before baking, or frozen for several months.

The meatballs take only about 15 minutes to bake, and during this time I prepare the Hoisin Honey Sauce, which I’ll use to toss the meatballs in just before serving. Hoisin sauce is the main component of the sauce and, like molasses, this classic Asian sauce is fragrant and thick but with a flavor profile that is both sweet and salty.

Honey, rice vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce and ground ginger are combined with the hoisin sauce to create a sauce that is wonderfully rich and fragrant. I use about half the sauce for tossing and save the rest to serve on the side as a sauce for dipping. The sauce can be prepared several days in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve. I recommend bringing the sauce to room temperature before adding to the meatballs.

I serve the sauced meatballs on a platter garnished with thinly sliced green onions and sesame seeds and bamboo toothpicks for easy eating. If you’re looking for recipe ideas for your next party, these Asian Spice Meatballs with Hoisin Honey Sauce are versatile, easy to prepare and always a crowd pleaser.

Asian Spice Meatballs with Hoisin Honey Sauce

Makes about 30 meatballs

Meatball ingredients:

½ pound ground beef

½ pound ground pork

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon soy sauce

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon five-spice powder

1 large or extra-large egg

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

To garnish:

1 green onion, thinly sliced, cut on the bias

Sesame seeds

Sauce ingredients:

¼ cup hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon sesame oil (plain or toasted)

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon ground ginger


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil; set aside.

In a large bowl, use clean hands to mix all of the meatball ingredients together until well combined, about 2 to 3 minutes. Use a 1-inch scoop or tablespoon to measure the mixture, then roll into 1-inch balls. Place meatballs on the prepared baking sheet, 1 inch apart. Bake in the oven until the meatballs are evenly browned all over and cooked through, about 13 to 15 minutes.

As the meatballs bake, place all of the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine. May be heated up or used at room temperature.

When the meatballs have finished baking, transfer them to a large bowl and add half of the sauce; gently toss to combine until evenly coated, adding more sauce if desired. Serve any remaining sauce on the side.

Transfer the sauced meatballs to a serving dish and garnish with a sprinkling of green onions and sesame seeds.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at