Joyce's Vietnamese Chicken Meatballs in Lettuce Wraps


Small Bites by Jennifer Joyce takes the popular restaurant trend of small plates and turns it into a fresh style of entertaining. Joyce's party recipes are clever but extremely doable: She gives chicken meatballs a heavenly sticky glaze, for instance, by rolling them in sugar before baking. Slideshow:  Cocktail Party Recipes 

Joyce's Vietnamese Chicken Meatballs in Lettuce Wraps
Photo: © Frances Janisch
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
45 mins


  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of visible fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

  • 3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

  • 3 small shallots, finely chopped

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 stalk of fresh lemongrass, tender white inner bulb only, minced

  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus 1/3 cup leaves for serving

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint, plus 1/3 cup leaves for serving

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 head Boston or red leaf lettuce, leaves separated

  • 1 small seedless cucumber—peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise

  • 1 small red onion, halved and sliced

  • Asian chili sauce, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Position a rack in the top third of the oven. In a food processor, pulse the chicken until coarsely ground; transfer to a bowl. Add the fish sauce, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, chopped cilantro and mint, cornstarch, salt and pepper and mix with your hands.

  2. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the sugar on a plate. Using slightly moistened hands, roll the chicken mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. Roll the meatballs in the sugar until they are evenly coated. Transfer the meatballs to the prepared baking sheet and bake them for 15 minutes, until they are lightly browned and cooked through.

  3. Meanwhile, arrange the lettuce, cilantro and mint leaves, cucumber and onion on a platter. Transfer the meatballs to the platter and serve with chili sauce.

Suggested Pairing

The Spanish grape Verdejo has a citrusy zing that goes perfectly with this sweet-spicy lettuce-wrapped chicken. It grows in the Rueda region in north-central Spain.

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