Cheats Recipe Vietnamese Meatballs Xíu Mại Chén


Vietnamese Meatballs

Xíu Mại


When ever I think of comfort food, one dish always springs to mind. Vietnamese Meatballs or xíu mại as its know in Vietnam. Every Vietnamese family has there own version of it. In essence its a pork meat ball with a tomato sauce. Growing up my mum would make her xíu mại in single serve bowls. This is know as xíu mại chén. Chén means small bowl, like the ones you eat rice from.  For the longest time I actually though this was the only version there was of this dish. But boy oh boy was I wrong.

Through my travels around Vietnam I got to try many variations of the dish. Some were little meat balls, some where big meat balls. Some where served with eggs and some with out. Some where served in a baguette as a sandwich.

All a bit different but have one thing in common. They all contain pork and tomato.

Over the years I’ve tried and tested so many different recipes. Some are complicated with so many ingrediencies and steps.

Most make the meatballs and sauce separately. Bit too time consuming if you ask me.

So today I’m going to show you my adaption of mothers recipe and with out bias

(ok maybe a little, actually a lot)

I believe it to be the best and most simplest recipe for this dish.

The most delicious as well.

You wont believe how simple this dish is to make and how few ingredients.

I’ve named this dish

Saba’s CHEATS xíu mại

Now before we get started let me tell you why I call this a cheats xíu mại. Well it all started way back about 40 years ago. That’s when my family came to Australia as refugees. When we first arrived we settled in a small country town in rural Victoria. That town has a very special place in my heart.  At the time my family was very poor and Asian ingrediencies where so hard to come by.  Mum had to adapt and use a lot of alternatives in her recipes.  We couldn’t really afford to buy meat back then so mum would bulk up the meat with fillers.

 With the world the way it is at the moment. People being in lockdown and not being able to get all the ingrediencies they need.  I figured was the perfect time to adopt my mothers concepts of adaptation and created this recipe.

Now here comes the cheats part.

Every good cheat recipe need a good cheat ingredient. In my xíu mại it is the humble can of baked beans. Yep you read it right. Baked beans!  Why baked bean I hear you ask?

Well first off I love eating them

They are cheap, high in fibre, taste delicious and already come in a rich tomato sauce.

Ticks all the boxes!


The shopping list

220 gram can baked beans in tomato sauce
500 grams minced pork (20% fat)
4 cloves of garlic finely diced
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs fish sauce
100 grams Jícama finely diced

Yep that’s it !


Lets get these meat balls a rolling hey?



Step 1

Using a sieve over a bowl. Drain your can of baked beans.

We want to separate the sauce from the beans

Step 2 

Peel and finely dice your garlic.

(If you don’t have fresh garlic you can use powder)

Step 3

Peel, wash and finely dice your Jícama.

(If you can’t get Jícama replace it with daikon, water chestnut, radish or even onion)

Step 4

To a large mixing bow add the baked beans, Jícama, garlic, fish sauce and ground pepper

(DO NOT add sauce from the beans you will need that later)

Step 5

Gently mix everything together, being careful not to squash the beans

Step 6

Take about a handful of mix and shape into a ball and add to small steam proof bowls or ramekins

(the mix should make 3 to 4 good size servings) 

Step 7

Place in a steamer, cover with a lid and steam for 15 minutes.

Step 8

Remove the lid and place a generous spoonful of the backed bean sauce over each bowl

Replace the steamer lid and steam for another 10 minutes


Step 9

Remove the lid and place another generous spoonful of the baked bean sauce over each bowl

Replace the steamer lid then turn off the heat and let step for 5 minutes


Step 10

Remove your xíu mại from the steamer and place on serving board

Now to add some finishing touches

Sprinkle on some soy sauce to taste, a dollop of chilli sauce if your that way inclined

Top with a coriander leaf, just to make it all look beautiful.

Now serve with some crunchy bread and enjoy!


Here is a quick video to help guide you through


That’s it peoples, Saba’s cheats xíu mại


Please tag me on your socials if you make this dish.

Share this recipe with your friends and family

I would love to see it!

Click the below links to try our some of my other great recipes

Trio of sardines

Pork Belly Yakitory



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Down Under Sports & Grill Dalat

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  1. Shed Knight Reply

    Yay, another winner, and perfect recipe for these “Lock down” times. Can’t wait to try this recipe out and absolutely love the “cheat”.

    • Nothing wrong with a cheat if it is delicious 😁

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Reply

    Definitely a friendly version!! I wanna make now…

    • Please share a photo if you do 🙂🙂🙂