My “tapas” appetizer idea of Beef Sweet Sour Meatballs with Pineapple has an Asian, tropical appeal. I made it inspired by a previous family recipe. The beef meatballs are encased in a sweet, sour, tangy, spicy glaze that grazes the meat and pineapple cubes which my mom referred to as agrio-dulce, Spanish for sweet-sour.
“Tapas” comes from the Spanish word “tapar” which means to cover. As appetizers, starters or snacks, ‘tapas” ingredients are layered, stacked or nestled together with varying flavors, textures and aromas in warm or cold temperatures. There are huge varieties starting from savory, plump Spanish olives, smokey cold cuts, spicy chorizos, tender slices of meat, mouth-watering “quesos” (cheeses) and an infinite spread of different, versatile ingredients, all meant to pair well with sparkling wines, cocktails and spirits.
Every time I go back to the Philippines and visit Manila, this cosmopolitan city has more and more exciting things in store for visitors and locals. Manila, the nation’s capital in this Southeast Asian country has seen the strong Spanish influence in cuisine — brought on by Spain’s colonization of over 300 years starting in the 15th century.
Some of the best Spanish restaurants are found in Manila, offering the best paellas, callos, canonigos and other popular Spanish dishes. Lately, the “tapas” craze has been a big hit and have emerged as strong favorites for Manila diners and tourists. One can find a wide range from the high end sophisticated “tapas” creations to simple, basic homespun platters — and tapas can be found every where from world class hotels to local neighborhood eateries.
Just before I wrote this blog post, I happily anticipated enjoying ‘tapas’, seated with friends from the Food Wine Conference, an annual event organized by the Sunday Supper Movement at the Tapa Toro Restaurant in Orlando, Florida. I visualized us, a huge group of food bloggers relishing the different ‘tapas’ offerings. And yes, it did happen and we had a blast.
Be ready to be enticed with these sweet-sour appetizers. Tapas have a way to play with your palates, build your appetites and make you thirsty for sparkling spirits and lots of fun.
Sweet Sour Beef Meatballs with Pineapple
- 1 pound ground beef for meatballs
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce for meatballs
- 2 teaspoons oyster sauce for meatballs;(from Asian markets)
- 1 whole onion chopped, for meatballs
- 2 stalks scallion whites whites only, chopped
- 1 large egg for meatballs
- 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs (unflavored) for meatballs
- 1 teaspoon salt for meatballs
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil divided, 1 Tablespoon for sauce, rest for frying meatballs
- 2 cloves garlic peeled; for sweet sour sauce
- 1/2 piece onion chopped, for sauce
- 1 knob fresh ginger an-inch long, minced, about a teaspoon, for sauce
- 2 Tablespoons tomato catsup for sauce
- 1/2 cup white vinegar for sauce
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar for sauce
- 1/4 cup pineapple sauce for sauce
- 1 cup water for sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt for sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper for sauce
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water room temperature, for combining with cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup pineapple cubes
- about 12 bamboo or 15 to 20 cocktail picks or skewers
- In a large mixing bowl, mix all the meatball ingredients. Combine well. Shape beef mixture into even-sized balls about 1-inch in diameter.
- Pre-heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. After about 2 minutes when oil is hot enough, or if using a thermometer, temperature reaches 350 F degrees, drop the meatballs into the skillet. Cook half of the batch at a time and do not crowd the skillet. Pan fry and cook the meatballs for about 7 to 8 minutes, turning around to brown evenly.
- Drain the meatballs on parchment paper to remove excess oil. When meatballs are slightly cooler, skewer the meatballs through long cocktail picks or use pre-soaked bamboo skewers. Alternately thread the beef meatballs with cubes of fresh pineapple in between. If using cocktail picks thread one meatball and one pineapple cube in each. If using bamboo skewers, thread 2 or 3 meatballs alternating with 2 or 3 pineapple cubes. Set aside.
To make the Sweet Sour sauce:
- In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, sauté in a tablespoon of vegetable oil, the garlic, onions, ginger for 2 minutes.
- To the same sauce pan, add the catsup and fry for about 1 to 2 minutes over medium heat. Add the vinegar, granulated sugar, pineapple juice, red pepper flakes and water. Blend well. Season with salt and black pepper powder. Cover and continue cooking for a minute.
- Separately, in a small bowl, dilute the cornstarch in water and using a whisk, blend well till there are no more lumps. Add this cornstarch mixture to the sauce pan with the vinegar mix. Bring to a boil in about 2 minutes. The sweet sour sauce will get thick. Lower heat to a slow simmer for one minute then remove from stove top. The mixture has sugar and may burn if kept on heat for a prolonged period.
- TO SERVE: Skewer meatballs and pineapple cubes alternately through long cocktail picks or bamboo skewers. Brush sweet-sour glaze over meatballs and fruit cubes. Serve warm as appetizers.
- COOK'S COMMENTS : You can substitute ground pork instead of beef if preferred. Or you can use a combination of ground beef and pork (in equal parts) for this recipe.
- Ingredient Info: Oyster sauce is a thick, salty-sweet, dark brown liquid popularly used as a base for Asian dishes. Traditionally, it was made by slowly simmering oysters in water till the liquid caramelized. Today, most brands sold in major supermarkets and Asian markets consist of sugar, salt, cornstarch, soy sauce, oyster extracts. There are also vegetarian oyster sauce products available. Find this product at online sources or major food stores.
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Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
Did you like this recipe? I have more classic recipes inspired by my late mother’s cooking in my popular cookbook: My Mother’s Philippine Recipes. If you’re learning how to cook Filipino food or a fan of Philippine cuisine, buy my cookbooks and books on Amazon.com sold worldwide in paperback and Kindle format.
Hello, Friends! Please DO NOT LIFT OR PLAGIARIZE my original recipe, stories, photos or videos. All the images and content on this blog are COPYRIGHT PROTECTED and owned by my media company Besa-Quirino LLC. This means BY LAW you are NOT allowed to copy, scrape, lift, frame, plagiarize or use my photos, essays, stories and recipe content on your websites, books, films, television shows, videos, without my permission. If you wish to republish this recipe or content on media outlets mentioned above, please ASK MY PERMISSION, or re-write it in your own words and link back to my blog AsianInAmericaMag.com to give proper attribution. It is the legal thing to do. Thank you. Email me at [email protected]