Meal Ideas for Sweet & Sour Meatballs

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Sweet and sour meatballs make a welcome addition to a buffet.
Sweet and sour meatballs make a welcome addition to a buffet. (Image: Froggery/iStock/Getty Images)

Sweet and sour dishes from Chinese cuisine inspired Americans to create their own versions, so serving sweet and sour meatballs with classic Chinese vegetables has both historic and flavorful roots. But you have plenty more options for turning the meatballs into a meal, whether you make your own sauce with ketchup, sugar, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, your sauce is a mix of sweet preserves and barbecue sauce, or you incorporate sweet and sour flavors into all the ingredients of a meatball dish.

Served Over Rice

When you add vegetables to the meatballs and serve them over rice, your meal is complete. Stir-fry the vegetables separately and add them into the meatballs with their sauce before ladling the mix over white or brown rice. Choose Asian vegetables, such as bean sprouts, bok choy, Asian eggplant or Chinese long green beans or go the American route with red or green bell peppers, celery slices, mushrooms, onion slices and pineapple chunks.

Meal in a Pot

Sweet and sour meatballs can get their distinctive flavors from the ingredients around them in soups and stews. Barbara Tripp, author of "China Moon Cookbook," adds meatballs made with ginger and chili oil into a stew that also includes vegetables, cellophane noodles and sweet and sour seasonings. A one-pot soup operates on the same principle, but uses more stock to create the base for the soup. J. Kenjui Lopez-Alt, Managing Culinary Director of "Serious Eats," recommends adding the vinegar just before serving so it keeps its aroma and power.

Side Dishes

Serving side vegetables or salads alongside sweet and sour meatballs allows each element of the meal to shine on its own. Use the same Chinese vegetables you would in a stir-fry or add broccoli or asparagus, whose earthy flavors balance the sweetness and sourness in the meatball sauce. In the summer, serve the dish with sweet corn to balance the sourness in the meatballs. Or, instead of adding pineapple to the meatball sauce, serve a fruit salad with pineapple, bananas and apples alongside the meatballs.

Appetizer Meatballs

Serve appetizer meatballs on small plates with toothpicks or forks, and include an array of accompaniments that complement their flavors. Spring rolls give a crunchy contrast to the smooth meatballs; a raw vegetable tray with crisp and cool celery, parsnip, jicama and carrot sticks served with a cool sour cream dip provide a refreshing contrast to the hot and rich meatballs; homemade potato or sweet potato skins or corn fritters bring a welcome bite of starch to the feast.

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