This Thai meatball curry recipe makes a Thai red curry with tender meatballs flavoured with Thai spices and fresh herbs, and garnished with fresh fragrant Thai basil and coriander, red chillies, and crunchy fried shallots. While the red Thai curry is traditional, the soft succulent meatballs are a not-so-traditional addition, but they’re incredibly delicious all the same.
If you’re fond of Thai food and particularly rich curries, and you’re a lover of rustic, succulent European-style meatballs, then I think you’re going to enjoy my Thai meatball curry recipe. It will make you a traditional Thai curry with not-so-traditional melt-in-the-mouth meatballs, so perhaps don’t share this with your Thai friends.
If you’re familiar with Thai food, you’ll know what I mean. Thai beef and pork meatballs tend to be firm, dense, a little chewy, and almost bouncy. I’m not a fan. Fish balls have a similar texture, although are ever-so-slightly softer, but for some reason I much prefer those quality in a fish ball to a meatball. Just don’t tell my Thai friends!
Now before I tell you more about this Thai meatball curry recipe, I have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-funded. If you’ve cooked our recipes and enjoyed them, please consider supporting Grantourismo by supporting our epic Cambodian cuisine history and cookbook on Patreon, which you can do for as little as the price of a coffee. Or you could buy us a coffee and we’ll use our coffee money to buy cooking ingredients for recipe testing.
Another option is to use links on our site to buy travel insurance, rent a car or campervan or motorhome, book accommodation, or book a tour on Klook or Get Your Guide. Or buy something on Amazon, such as these cookbooks for culinary travellers, James Beard award-winning cookbooks, cookbooks by Australian chefs, classic cookbooks for serious cooks, travel books to inspire wanderlust, and gifts for Asian food lovers and picnic lovers. We may earn a small commission but you won’t pay any extra.
Lastly, you could browse our Grantourismo store for gifts for food lovers, including food themed reusable cloth face masks designed with Terence’s images. Now let me tell you all about our Thai meatball curry recipe for a Thai red curry with tender meatballs
Thai Meatball Curry Recipe for a Thai Red Curry with Tender Meatballs and Fragrant Basil
Before I share my Thai meatball curry recipe for a Thai red curry with tender meatballs flavoured with Thai spices and fresh herbs, I wanted to share some reflections on Thai food and Thai home cooking – just a few things I’ve been mulling over while I’ve been shaping meatballs and stirring curries.
When Terence makes Thai food, he’s a stickler for tradition. He has a profound respect for Thai cuisine and its long history, and a love of the Thai classics, whether it be Thai street food favourites – such as one of Terence’s favourites, pad krapao – or more complex traditional Thai dishes, such as a Massaman curry.
When Terence and I first began to cook Thai food together in the compact kitchen of the basement flat we rented in a big Balmain terrace house way back in the mid- to late-80s, Terence would cook his way through Thai cookbooks, such as chef David Thompson’s Thai Food cookbook.
Terence was soaking tamarind in water and pounding curry pastes from scratch in a mortar and pestle, while I was still winging it, adding half a jar of peanut butter to my satay sauce (I now use this more authentic Thai satay sauce recipe), and every green vegetable I could find in the supermarket veggie section to my Thai green curry – which I unforgivably ladled onto bowls of gloopy rice I boiled on the stove. I was 19 years old, people!!!
It wasn’t long before we bought a rice cooker – my favourite kitchen appliance after the round flat bottomed wok, which is non-stick and light-weight – but even so, while I learnt to better cook Thai food (and please note: I still share the same appreciation and respect for traditional Thai cuisine that Terence has long had), I have to confess that I have always been partial to some tweaking.
After the pandemic started, when we pivoted Grantourismo from a travel site with some food to a food site with some travel, we spent long periods at home hibernating, and cooking and sharing our favourite dishes from places we’d lived in and travelled here on the site. Although I’ve long been a tweaker, that’s when I started to get more ‘creative’ with my cooking. And not only with Thai food, but Cambodian and Vietnamese, and the food of Myanmar in particular.
It was never about (heaven forbid) ‘elevating’ any cuisines; not at all – as far as I’m concerned, nobody can really do that except those who were born eating it – but it was more about making a tweak or two to suit my taste, such as creating a different (non-traditional) textured meatball as I’ve done with this Thai meatball curry recipe.
It’s by no means better – it’s a traditional Thai curry after all – it’s just one element that’s a little different. And when I make those tweaks to traditional dishes, whether it’s traditional Thai food or Cambodian food or Vietnamese food or whatever, I’m always going to tell you how I’ve adapted it, so you know what the real deal is like and where it originated.
By the same token, I’m not going to call this a meatball curry and pretend I created it, when it’s clearly an adaptation of a Thai curry – just as I’m not going to publish a recipe for a tweaked ‘spicy pork noodle soup’ that’s clearly been adapted from a traditional Thai kway teow, Cambodian kuy teav or Vietnamese hủ tiếu.
I felt that needed to be said, and if you know, you know. As usual, I only have a few tips to making this Thai meatball curry recipe for a Thai red curry with tender meatballs.
Tips for Making this Thai Meatball Curry Recipe for a Thai Red Curry with Tender Meatballs and Fragrant Basil
Just a few tips to making my Thai meatball curry recipe for a Thai red curry with tender meatballs, flavoured with Thai spices and fresh herbs, and garnished with fresh fragrant Thai basil and coriander, red chillies, and crunchy fried shallots. While the red Thai curry is traditional, the soft succulent meatballs are a not-so-traditional addition, but they’re incredibly delicious all the same.
I recommend first making the meatballs, then making the curry and then finishing the brown meatballs in the curry. That way, if you don’t think you’ll have time to make everything in one hit, you could form the meatballs the night before and refrigerate them, then make the curry the next day and finish the meatballs in the curry.
I fry my meatballs in soybean oil or another neutral cooking oil. Please don’t use olive oil. It’s a Mediterranean cooking oil and has no place in Southeast Asian food. That’s far more than a tweak!
I like to fry the finely diced onion until soft and fragrant then set it aside to cool before combining it with the mince mixture. It makes for a softer meatball interior with none of the crunch of raw onions that you might get if you don’t cook the meatballs long enough.
One of my tricks is to combine white bread soaked in milk with your meatball mixture, as you would with European style meatballs, only in this case you’re using coconut milk or (my preference) coconut cream instead of cow’s milk. It’s amazing!
Another hack is to stir the curry paste that’s going into the meatball mixture with a little coconut cream or coconut milk before incorporating it into the ground meat mix, so it distributes more evenly.
Do test the seasoning before you fry all your meatballs, by popping one in the microwave or a small frying pan, and then adjusting the seasoning, spices or herbs to suit your palate.
I shallow-fry the meatballs to brown them and par-cook them, then finish them in the curry, which is partly what results in softer and more succulent meatballs. The longer you leave the curry simmering on the stove, the juicier the meatballs will be.
And as for the curry, I find that a red curry paste or a Massaman curry paste work best with these meatball curry. We have both a homemade red curry paste recipe (which also includes tips for using a mortar and pestle) and a homemade Massaman curry paste recipe, both of which you can pound from scratch in a mortar and pestle. But you can also use your favourite store-bought Thai red curry paste or store-bought Massaman curry paste.
Garnish with fresh herbs and sliced chillies, and serve with steamed jasmine rice or rice noodles. I enjoy both but for the Thai meatball curry recipe I actually ladled the curry onto rice noodles, which is why the meatballs are sitting on top of the curry. Make sure to sprinkle on some crispy fried shallots. Yum!
Thai Meatball Curry Recipe for a Thai Red Curry with Tender Meatballs
- 4 tbsp soybean oil or other neutral cooking oil
- 120 g onion finely diced
- 1 400 ml can coconut cream
- 1 slice white bread
- 400 g minced pork or chicken
- 1 tsp Thai red curry paste – or Massaman curry paste
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 small knob fresh ginger peeled and minced
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp mixed fresh herbs finely chopped – fresh basil, coriander (cilantro).
- 1 tbsp soybean oil or other neutral cooking oil
- 4 tbsp Thai red curry paste – or Massaman curry paste
- 500 ml chicken stock – homemade (see our recipe) or use store-bought
- 1 tbsp fish sauce – or salt to taste
- 1 tsp sugar – optional
- 1 long red chilli sliced
- 2 tbsp fresh basil and coriander
- 1 tsp crispy fried shallots
- In a frying pan over medium-high, heat one tablespoon of soybean oil or other neutral cooking oil until shimmering, then fry the finely diced onion until soft and fragrant, transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool.
- Scoop out the thick creamy coconut cream from the top of the can, transfer to a small bowl, and set aside. Then in a shallow dish, soak the slice of bread in enough of the thinner coconut cream so it’s covered, around 2-3 tablespoons.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked diced onion, minced meat, coconut cream-soaked bread, teaspoon of curry paste (stir it into a little coconut cream so it distributes more evenly), minced garlic and ginger, fish sauce, sugar and finely chopped fresh herbs.
- Roll a teaspoon of the meatball mixture into a small meatball and microwave or fry until cooked to taste and, if needed, adjust the seasoning to suit your palate.
- Use a tablespoon to scoop out some mixture and roll it between your two hands a few times to roughly form a 4cm ball. Set it down on a tray and repeat until you finish the mixture. You should end up with around 18 meatballs.
- In a large flat round-bottomed wok or large pan, heat three tablespoons of soybean oil or other neutral cooking oil over medium heat under shimmering. Using tongs, transfer the meatballs to the pan so they’re not touching. You may have to fry them in two batches. Shallow-fry the meatballs, turning occasionally so all sides are brown, then transfer them to a clean tray.
- When done, use a kitchen paper towel to wipe out the wok or pan, heat another tablespoon of soybean oil or other neutral cooking oil over medium heat under shimmering, then add the curry paste and fry for a minute or so until fragrant. Pour in the coconut cream and stock, stir to combine well and bring to a simmer.
- Add the meatballs to the curry and leave to simmer for 15 minutes to ensure the meatballs and fully cooked. The longer you leave them to simmer in the curry, the softer and more succulent they’ll become.
- When ready to eat, transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with fresh herbs and chillies, and serve with steamed jasmine rice – or distribute cooked rice noodles between individual bowls and top with curry, meatballs and fresh herbs, chillies and crispy fried shallots.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make our Thai meatball curry recipe for a Thai red curry with tender meatballs, as we’d love to hear how it turned out for you.
Jane Milner says
Wow. I didn’t think this would be so easy – and quite a similar technique to western style meatballs. Served this with jasmine rice and everyone loved it!
I wonder if I could make chicken meatballs and do a green curry?!
Lara Dunston says
Hi Jane, so delighted you enjoyed the dish! Yes, very much more of a ‘Western’ style of meatball. The Southeast Asian meatballs are tighter, denser and bouncier in texture as the mince is mixed so much it’s like a paste. I do enjoy that texture with the Thai fishballs, but I’m not a fan with the meatballs, hence this recipe.
But, yes, you can definitely make chicken meatballs in a green curry. I’ve been meaning to share a recipe for exactly that, but some tech issues have delayed our publishing schedule this week. I’ll try to get that up next week.
Thank you so much for taking the time to drop by :)