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Sweet and Sour Meatballs Make the Perfect Appetizer

Updated on November 12, 2014
sweet sour meatballs
sweet sour meatballs

I have a passion for anything that's sweet and sour

so when I'm in the mood for Chinese, I can't resist ordering at least one dish that's sweet and sour. One of my favorite dishes is a Japanese version of a sweet and sour dish that's been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. Now my mother didn't care much for cooking and she's far from being the best cook in the world, but there were some things that she made really well and sweet and sour meatballs were one of them. In fact, I still get cravings for them now and then and fortunately, she taught me how to make them before my move to Japan.

There are two types of Chinese restaurants in Japan

One of them is the authentic version which serves all your typical Chinese food and usually run by a Chinese. The other version is most likely run by a Japanese and usually offers staples such as ramen ( soup noodles ), gyoza dumplings and sweet and sour dishes such as these meatballs. Although it's called "Chinese", the menu is limited so you won't find any Peking Duck here.

My mother's sweet and sour meatballs

are incredibly easy to make and quite frankly, some of the best meatballs I've ever eaten in my life. I usually make them as part of a meal, but they also make great appetizers as they taste good even when cold. Although you can just deep fry them once, frying them twice gives them an especially crispy coating so it's worth the extra effort.

If you have a passion for food and travel, you might enjoy my TabiEats Blog and YouTube Channel. I look forward to seeing you over there. Thanks!

Everyday Harumi
Everyday Harumi

My favorite cookbook author Harumi makes it easy to cook Japanese food that's not only delicious and healthy but authentic.

Every picture is accompanied by a picture and includes helpful advice on how to chop vegetables and serve rice elegantly and properly. Her no-nonsense approach makes her books a joy to read.

  • Prep time: 15 min
  • Cook time: 20 min
  • Ready in: 35 min
  • Yields: 4


  • 1 pound ground meat (beef, pork or mixture)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sake or cooking wine
  • 1 egg mixed well
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Cooking oil for deep-frying
  • Sesame oil (optional)
  • Chopped green onions (optional)


  2. Add ground meat, salt, ginger, soy sauce and sake (or cooking wine) and egg into a bowl and mix well until combined. Once all ingredients are well combined and a little sticky, add cornstarch and mix to combine all ingredients.
  3. Shape each meatball into small balls.
  4. Heat the oil to medium and deep-fry the meatballs for 30 seconds, take out and drain.
  5. Heat the oil to medium-high and fry the meatballs a second time until nice and brown. Take them out, drain oil and set aside.
  7. Put all sauce ingredients with the exception of the cornstarch into a wok or frying pan. In a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch with 1/2 tablespoon of water and mix well.
  8. Add the cornstarch to the sauce and mix well.
  9. Cook the sauce on medium heat stirring constantly until it thickens.
  10. Add a dash of sesame oil to the sauce and mix to combine.
  11. Add the meatballs into the sauce and mix making sure the meatballs are covered in the sauce.
  12. Garnish with chopped green onions if you like and serve.

What Did You Think?

5 stars from 2 ratings of Sweet Sour Meatballs
Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen
Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen

Written by Elizabeth Ando, the English language authority on Japanese cuisine, this book not only has authentic recipes but is also accompanied by tips, tricks and information on what makes a Japanese meal. The beautiful pictures is a joy to look at and will entice your taste buds.


Do you think you'd like these meatballs? What is your favorite appetizer? Please feel free to leave your comments here.

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    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Shinichi, I, too, love sweet and sour flavors and these meatballs look and sound wonderful! I no longer do deep fat frying when I cook, but I might try spraying a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, placing the meatballs on it and spraying them with cooking spray and then roasting or broiling them to get a crisp exterior before adding them with the sweet and sour sauce. Add a side salad and some brown rice and call it dinner!

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 3 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      I am going to have to stop following you as you always make me feel hungry! LOL ;) These yet again look delicious have to try!

    • Valerie Bloom profile image

      Valerie Bloom 3 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Looks delicious! I just have to veganize the meat part, and I'm all set! I never thought about making meatballs as an appetizer before. We always had them as part of the main dish. I like the look of them with the toothpicks!

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      This beautifully written recipe article gave me second thoughts about being a vegetarian. I'm not changing, but your eloquence brought back some memories of the good old days when I loved eating meat prepared with flare and imagination.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Another recipe on my list now. I love sweet and sour, and the ingredients in this sauce sound perfect together. Never thought of deep frying the meatballs. More new things to try. Thanks for sharing this!

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @favored: Thanks so much favored.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 3 years ago from USA

      Fruit is my favorite appetizer or chesses with something. This would make the perfect New Year's Eve appetizer. I'll have to share this with my family. Giving it a tweet as well :)

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @ayannavenus: I hope you get to try them.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Susan300: They are I promise!

    • ayannavenus profile image

      ayannavenus 4 years ago

      These sound yum yum

    • Corrinna-Johnson profile image

      Corrinna Johnson 4 years ago from BC, Canada

      Mmmm...I love sweet and sour anything! I have never heard of deep-frying meatballs before. Thanks for teaching me something new!

    • Susan300 profile image

      Susan300 4 years ago

      These sound delicious! :)

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @tonyleather: Believe me they are to die for. :)

    • profile image

      tonyleather 4 years ago

      I could be tempted by these!

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @LornsA178: Yeah me too. Sweet and sour chicken, pork,...pretty much anything really!

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @VinnWong: I think so too

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @sousababy: Thanks sousababy. They really are yummy!

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @DorotheaK: They sure do. Let me know if you try them out.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @SusanDeppner: I could just have these and a salad and call it a day!

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @stormy1990: haha. Thanks for visiting!

    • LornsA178 profile image

      LornsA178 4 years ago

      Your recipe sounds good! I would like to try this one. I like sweet and sour anything. Yummy!

    • VinnWong profile image

      VinnWong 4 years ago

      Best finger food!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      These sound delicious.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 4 years ago

      I never really considered meatballs as an appetizer before - what a fabulous idea.

    • profile image

      DorotheaK 4 years ago

      They look nice, I believe they taste the same.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Sounds so good! We had meatball appetizers for lunch yesterday (with lots of good vegetables and a dip) but I could eat them again today. I'd love to try your mother's recipe!

    • profile image

      stormy1990 4 years ago

      This lens reminded me that lunch time is almost here. The recipe sounds very delicious!

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Susan Zutautas: Yay! Let me know how you like them.

    • Susan Zutautas profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I always make all sorts of finger foods for Christmas and New Years Eve. Your sweet and sour meatballs are going on my must make this year list. Can't wait to try them.