Burmese Meatball Curry

Is it weird that I have go-to recipes for things like kimchi and Goan shrimp curry, but I don’t even have a meatloaf recipe?   Sometimes I wonder whether I should just stick to tried and true American favorites instead of cooking all of these dishes from unfamiliar cuisines.  But that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun, would it?

And besides, there are plenty of times when these foreign dishes, with their somewhat exotic ingredients, end up reminding me a whole lot of childhood classics.  Take, for instance, this Burmese meatball curry dish.    The seasoned beef meatballs are simmered in a sweet, savory and tangy sauce that combines garlic, onion, ginger, tomatoes and tamarind liquid.  It was reminiscent of those ketchup glazed meatloaves I ate when I was younger… except a whole lot better.

So if you were also a fan of those ketchup-glazed meatballs as a child, I’m guessing your adult palate is going to really like this one.  Whether you serve them as an appetizer, main dish, or sandwich stuffing, I really don’t think you can go wrong.


Burmese Meatball Curry

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes


* 2 teaspoons tamarind paste
* 1-1/4 cups water, divided
* 1 pound ground beef
* 2 teaspoons rice flour
* 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon fish sauce
* 1 medium (or 1/2 a large) Jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
* 2 Tablespoons oil
* 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
* 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised and woody ends trimmed
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/2 cup diced tomatoes in their juice
* roughly chopped cilantro leaves


Combine the tamarind paste with 1/4 cup warm water. Mash the pulp with a fork and set aside for five minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into another bowl and discard any seeds and pulp.

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, rice flour, turmeric, salt, fish sauce and Jalapeno pepper. Mix until well combined and shape the mixture into meatballs approximately 1-inch in diameter.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and lightly brown on all sides; do not worry if they are not cooked through. Set aside on a plate.

In the same skilled, add the ginger, garlic and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened. Add the lemongrass and cayenne and stir to mix. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently and using your stirring utensil to mash the diced tomatoes.

Return the meatballs to the skillet and add the tamarind liquid and the remaining 1 cup of water. Reduce heat to medium low and let the mixture simmer until the sauce has thickened.

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately.

Adapted from The Burmese Kitchen: Recipes from the Golden Land by Copeland Marks and Aung Thein

    Pin It

11 Responses to “Burmese Meatball Curry”

  1. #
    Julie @ Table for Two — March 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    oh the flavors in this!! they’d be doing a dance in my mouth. i LOVE all of this. i probably would have a hard time sharing, ha!


    • Cate — March 11th, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

      Thanks Julie!


  2. #
    Barbara — March 7, 2013 at 9:22 am

    These look yummy! I really love my meatballs!


  3. #
    Johanna — March 13, 2013 at 12:43 am

    Wow, that looks great. I’ve got some tamarind paste lying around that I’ve never used before, this looks like a great recipe to do so!


    • Cate — March 13th, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

      Yep… I finally broke the tamarind paste out of the pantry (that I’d had for about 6 months or so) for this recipe. It was a great way to finally use some of it up :) Hope you like them!


  4. #
    Sandy — April 15, 2013 at 6:49 am

    That looks delicious, I’m so glad I found your site. I’m going gluten-free and I love multicultural cooking . :) I have a question though, what is the rice dish you’ve served with the meatballs here? Is it some version of khichri? I always have trouble finding pairings for main dishes but that looks really good. Thanks!


    • Cate — April 15th, 2013 @ 7:33 am

      So glad you found your way here Sandy! The side was a yellow split pea and rice dish that I made that I wasn’t satisfied enough with to post here. But I’m sure if you we’re to Google it (called Peihtamin in Burmese), you’d be able to find a recipe online to try!


  5. #
    Trish — June 6, 2013 at 5:14 am

    Looks amazing, we are having these for dinner tonight! Quick question, in this recipe do you use the lemongrass kind of like a bay leaf – leave it whole/smashed then take it out at the end? Or do you dice it up and eat it with everything? Thanks!


    • Cate — June 6th, 2013 @ 7:33 am

      Hi Trish- I use it like a bay leaf… I just kind of smash the stalk to release the oils and flavor, but keep I in relatively large pieces so its easy for people to identify and not try to eat!

      Hope you like it :)


  6. #
    Trish — June 6, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    This was really tasty- thanks for the tip! I think I’m going to try it with lamb next time, seems like the spices would work really well with it too. Thanks!


    • Cate — June 9th, 2013 @ 11:03 pm

      So glad you liked it Trish!


Leave a Comment