Japanese Tsukune Chicken Meatballs


Japanese Tsukune Chicken Meatballs

Yields: 50 mini meatballs

A slightly sweet sauce embraces Japanese tsukune chicken meatballs. Hints of fiery garlic kick in after the first bite.  Japanese tsukune chicken meatballs are beautiful appetizers. The meatballs alongside a bowl of sticky Japanese white rice and salad also make a beautiful supper.

Adapted from an EatingWell.com recipe.


For the meatballs:

  • 2 medium dried shiitake mushrooms*1
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • ¼ cup Japanese panko breadcrumbs (I used gluten-free panko)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
  • 2 teaspoons potato starch (cornstarch works too)
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • generous ¼ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • pinch of (¼ teaspoon) Kosher salt
  • pinch of (¼ teaspoon) black pepper
  • Sesame oil for frying the meatballs

For the sauce:

  • ½ cup Japanese mirin (or dry white wine with a ½ to 1 tsp. sugar)
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 3 teaspoons potato starch (or cornstarch) mixed with 2 tablespoons of water

For the garnish:

White sesame seeds

*1 Shiitake mushrooms are available online. But if budget or time does not permit, 5 fresh button mushrooms thinly sliced or 1 Portobello mushroom thinly sliced will work. The taste will be different but delicious. Fresh mushrooms will not need to be reconstituted.


To prepare the Japanese tsukune chicken meatballs:

Pour boiling water over the dried shiitake mushrooms in a small bowl. Let the shiitake soften for about 45 minutes. (If using fresh mushrooms. Skip this step.)
Discard the stems of the softened shiitake mushrooms. Slice the remaining mushroom caps into very small slices.

In a large bowl, place the chicken. Gently knead in the mushrooms, Japanese panko, egg white, scallions, potato starch, ginger, garlic, honey, Kosher salt and pepper.
With a mini ice cream scooper or a tablespoon, form 50 mini Japanese tsukune chicken meatballs. (Use 2 tablespoons or a large scooper to create larger meatballs for a meal.) Place on a plate. Wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

Generously coat a large nonstick frying pan with sesame oil. (About the top of a thumbnail.) Fry the meatballs in batches, turning when one side becomes golden brown. (Approximately 6 minutes.) When the meatballs are golden on all sides, transfer to a steamer. Steam over simmering water for 10 minutes. Remove and lightly fry again with sauce. Garnish with sesame seeds.

To prepare the sauce:

In a saucepan, bring the mirin (or wine plus sugar) soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar and ginger to a boil. Use a medium flame. Pour in the potato starch and water mixture. Reduce the flame and continue to stir until thick.