I've been playing around with a recipe for Vietnamese meatballs for a few years now, and have only recently gotten close to the flavour I was looking for. For any of you trying this at home, do not think that you will ever get close without fish sauce... even if you hate fish sauce. Yes, it is one of the most rank smelling foods I've had to work with, but the umami it imparts cannot be beaten. I decided to use this to update a standard burger, and served it with sliced chinese cabbage for some crunch and thinned out Thai Peanut Sauce instead of ketchup.
Vietnamese-style Pork Burgers (makes 6)
500g lean ground pork
1/2 onion, diced
2 stalks lemongrass
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tbsp szechuan pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Blitz lemongrass and garlic in the food processor until nearly a puree, then toss in the diced onion to chop a bit more finely. Mix thoroughly with the pork, fish sauce, and breadcrumbs, adding the pepper and salt to taste. (To check the flavour, pinch off a small bit and cook in a fry pan. This may seem like a waste of time, but I find I never quite achieve the taste I'm looking for without doing this.)
Grabbing small handfuls, shape into patties. I stack my leftovers between layers of parchment paper and wrap for freezing. The remaining can be pan cooked over medium-low heat or done on the barbecue. Serve with sliced chinese cabbage and peanut sauce on hamburger buns.