Like most normal humans, I have a thing for meatballs. And as a hunter, I love teriyaki meatballs — because, well, teriyaki seems to be one of the primary flavors American hunters turn to for cooking wild game.
Obviously, I also love Italian meatballs, Greek meatballs, Laotian meatballs, German meatballs, etc, etc. Pretty much every culture that eats meat, which is almost all of them, has some sort of a meatball.
This style of meatball, called niku dango, is damn good. It’s basically teriyaki meatballs, normally made with pork, and if you are not a hunter, use pork or beef or even ground chicken or turkey.
I used venison to make these meatballs instead, because that’s what I had at hand. It’s a pretty simple meatball, made “Japanese” with the addition of ginger, green onion, coarse panko breadcrumbs and soy sauce in the mix. All by itself, it’s a nice meatball.
The star of this show is the sauce, which is a homemade teriyaki. Could you use store-bought teriyaki sauce? I suppose, but I always prefer cooking from scratch.
Teriyaki, if you’ve been living in a cave near the Arctic Circle your whole life, is a salty, sweet, slightly acidic sauce that goes well on everything. In Japan it’s a sort of BBQ sauce. Here it’s become a universal seasoning; I’ve even seen teriyaki potato chips.
That’s really all there is to this recipe: Easy teriyaki meatballs glazed with a homemade sauce, dusted with sesame seeds. Stick a toothpick in each meatball and you have a great party appetizer. Toss a few on top of some steamed rice and you have an easy weeknight meal.
But a fair warning: Make more than you think you’ll need. People seem to be unable to control themselves while eating these…
For another take on Japanese meatballs, here’s one I like from Saveur.
Teriyaki Meatballs with Venison
- 2 pounds finely ground venison, pork or wild boar
- 3 tablespoons minced green onions
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons potato or corn starch
- Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
- Mix all the meatball ingredients together in a bowl. Mix all the sauce ingredients in another bowl.
- Form meatballs anywhere from the size of a walnut to the size of golf ball. For best results, set the meatballs on a baking sheet and put it into the fridge for an hour to firm up. But you can cook the meatballs straight away if you'd like.
- Cook the meatballs. You can deep fry them at 360°F for about 5 minutes, or you can poach them in simmering water for about the same amount of time (they're ready when they float); or you can bake the meatballs at 400°F for about 20 minutes.
- Glaze the meatballs. Whisk the sauce together so the starch doesn't stick to the bottom of the bowl, and pour it into a large saute pan. Bring it to a boil and add the cooked meatballs. Roll them around in the hot sauce to glaze for 30 seconds or so. Move the meatballs to a serving plate and sprinkle sesame seeds over them. Serve hot as an appetizer or with rice.