Food For Four

Xíu Mại (Vietnamese Meatballs)

Posted on | June 21, 2010 | Asian Recipes, Recipes, Vietnamese Recipes | 10 Comments

Xiu Mai Vietnamese Meatballs

Xíu mại is Vietnamese meatballs and it sounds very similar to the Chinese dumplings siu mai. I’m sure these meatballs are influenced by the Chinese but the only similarities between these meatballs and the Chinese dumplings are that it’s made of out ground pork and it’s steamed. These meatballs also has European influences as it’s cooked in a delicious tomato sauce. The flavours are still very uniquely Vietnamese and the meatballs has a nice crunch from the use of water chestnuts or jacama.

Bánh mì xíu mại is a very popular way of serving these meatballs in a crusty Vietnamese baguette filled with coriander, cucumber, red chillies and pickled radish and carrots. But these tasty meatballs are also delicious with rice.

banh mi xiu mai

Traditionally these meatballs are steamed and then added to the tomato sauce. I prefer not to take out my steamer when I can (less cleaning) so I lightly pan fry these meatballs to give it colour and to keep its shape, and then braised it in the tomato sauce.

Xíu Mại (Vietnamese Meatballs) Recipe


1 kg pork mince
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 red Asian shallots, finely chopped
3 green onion, white part only, finely chopped
1 small can water chestnut (220g) or 1 jicama, cut into very small pieces
1 egg
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
oil for pan frying

Tomato sauce
3 gloves garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 teaspoons sugar

If serve with bread
4 crusty bread rolls
1/2 bunch coriander
1 cucumber, sliced
pickled white radish and carrot
1/2 bunch coriander
fresh chillies (optional)


In a large bowl, combine the pork mince, garlic, shallots, green onions, water chestnuts, egg, sugar, salt, fish sauce and pepper, and mix well with your hands. Form the mixture into 4cm balls then place them on a plate or tray.

Heat up a frying pan, add oil and pan fry the meatballs so that they are brown and charred. They do not need to be fully cooked as doing this will keep their shape. Once they are brown, remove from the pan and place on separate plate.

In a large heavy based saucepan, heat a small amount of oil then add the chopped garlic and fry until fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil. Add the tomato paste, water, fish sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Then add the meatballs.

Simmer the meatballs for about 25 minutes or until cooked and sauce is reduced.

Taste test and add more seasoning if required. Remove from heat.

Serve meatballs as fillings in a crusty baguette with coriander, cucumber, red chillies and pickled radish and carrots. Or serve meatballs with white rice.

Xiu Mai

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10 Responses to “Xíu Mại (Vietnamese Meatballs)”

  1. Forager
    June 21st, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

    I don’t usually see these dumplings anywhere but in bain-maries in Cabramatta’s Vietnamese bakeries – and boy, the bread rolls with these are always delicious! I’ve always suspected they’re good because they’re fatty so it’d be great to cook my own with good lean meat – thanks for the recipe!

  2. Leona @
    June 21st, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

    hey yen your photos are beautiful!!!!

    I love vietnamese cuisine. I wish I was vietnamese so I could eat awesome food everyday. Its a pitty the vietnamese bf doesn’t know how to cook any thing viet :( *boo*

  3. Anh
    June 21st, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

    Love this! I was thinking of making this dish soon. So yum!

  4. Phuoc'n Delicious
    June 26th, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

    OMG, seen two recipes for Xiu Mai this week on blogs and it’s definately sending me craving for it. I have to make this next weekend! Served with crusty vietnamese bread; perfect for this cold weather

  5. B
    July 8th, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

    OOOO def book marking this! boyfriend LOVES these! thanks so much for sharing

  6. alyssa
    July 23rd, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

    I made this dish using your recipe 2 nights ago and it was fabulous! The sauce tasted so good that I had to make extra and by the second night I added mixed beans…ok, so it turned out to be a totally different dish (I ended up dipping my bread into the ‘soup’) but it still tasted great. Thanks for sharing this awesome comfort food recipe.

  7. Colin
    May 30th, 2011 @ 1:21 am

    The only problem I’d have with this is getting the perfect rolls to go with them :(

    I’m originally from Geelong, and there’s a wonderful Vietnamese bakery there that makes just the sort of rolls in your picture. Oh, dear God, how I love them!

    Now I live in Tasmania, and I don’t know anywhere I can get them! :(

  8. Mong-Wai
    September 22nd, 2011 @ 7:57 am

    I made Xiu Mai Sandwich yesterday with your recipe, it was so awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. I steamed the meatballs since you said that was the traditional way, and yes, it tasted just like my favorite Vietnamese restuarant in Sunset park, Brooklyn. I didn’t have any tomato paste so I used ketchup instead I wonder how much that changed the color or taste.

    Over all, it was great. I will sure be making this dish over and over again. Thank you.

  9. Thanh @ eat, little bird
    January 11th, 2012 @ 4:31 am

    Oh my, this looks and sounds delicious! I have to admit that I have never known of meatballs cooked this way in a tomato sauce in Vietnamese cooking. But I already know it will be delicious and can’t wait to try your recipe!

  10. Haily
    October 9th, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

    I made this recipe tonight and it was delicious. My husband who normally is quite picky with Asian food finished the bowl and went for seconds.Perfect for the colder weather we are experiencing in Colorado.Thank you!

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