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Chinese fish and seafood

31. Chinese stir fried ‘bok choy’ with fish balls


A friend, who is originally from Beijing, came over for dinner the other day and I cooked this dish. Then she asked me if I came up with the idea of this nice combination myself…. I was flattered — but — have to be honest, no, at least I don’t think so. Somewhere, sometime, I must have tried it, might have been a little bit different, and it might not be a typical Northeast dish. :)

Chinese bok choy

I normally buy ‘bok choy’ from Chinese supermarkets. I think they taste more juicy and crunchy than the ones sold in normal supermarkets. But this type of ‘bok choy’ in Northeast China is called ‘you cai’ as ‘oil vegetable’, I guess it is from its seed. (Bok Choy in Mandarin in the North East of China normally refers to Chinese leave as big `Bok Choy, or small green leaves as small bok choy. So if you are traveling in Northeast, don’t be confused.)

In Northeast cuisine, ‘You cai’ are normally stir fried or cooked in the soup on its own, or with other ingredients, like, mushrooms,  flat ‘Fen si’ (potato starch), or fish balls, but never with any meat. In contrast, the ‘small bok choy’ goes well with meat balls, beef or lamb mince balls, or in hot-pot.

Fish balls in Chinese cuisine

Fish balls are a ‘new thing’ in Northeast cuisine. They only started becoming popular around 15 years ago, maybe. They can be made from different kinds of white fish, commonly used only in soups. I guess it is a type Cantonese and Japanese food.

Here in England, I can only find fish balls in Chinese supermarkets, and they usually are ‘cuttlefish balls’. They are  normally sold in two types: fried and non-fried, both are good for stir frying or soup. Personally, (with my greedy stomach) I like fried ones, but, did I mention before that I got influenced by dad, who never trusts the oil that used to fry food sold in the market. So, I tend to only buy the non-fried ones, and if I like, I can fry them at home. But for this recipe, I do think non-fried ones are better.

The recipe: stir fried bok choy with fish balls

It is a very simple dish — a very good quick fix, say 10 minutes? :))

Here you go.


‘You Cai’  (Bok Choy)  – you need a big bunch of it, because after heated up and mixed with salt, it ‘shrinks’.

Fish balls

Garlic, five spice powder (optional), oil, light soy sauce, vegetable/mushroom essence or MSG (optional) 


1) Wash and clean ‘You Cai’, get rid of the ‘root’, and separate the leaves. — (It is just for eating it easily. )

Chinese bok choy with seafoodChinese you cai with fish balls

2) Halve the fish balls into half (This is only because the fish balls I got is not very small).

3) Chop 3 -5 gloves of garlic.


1) Pour in 4 -5 tablespoons of oil into a heated wok.

Cooking bok choyStir fried bok choy

2) When the oil is heated up, put in chopped the garlic, and 1/3 teaspoon of five spice powder (optional).

3) When you can smell the garlic, add the fish balls in, stir fry for a little while.

Chinese you cai recipe

4) Add in prepared ‘You Cai’, stir fry together with fish balls.

5) Add in 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.

6) When ‘Youcai’ shrinked a little bit (it is not supposed to be soft), add in egetable/mushroom essence or MSG (optional)

— Done!

I did a little ‘art’ — placed the green leaves around the edge of the plate, and the white fish balls in the middle. :))

The leaves, especially the white part of the stem should still be very crunchy and juicy.

It is good to have it with boil rice or a beer. :)

Related posts:

3. Chinese pan fried fish (Liu Yu Pian)
21. Chinese Garlic chives and prawn Pastry (part 1)
47. Chinese seafood dumpling fillings
57. North East Style Jiaozhi Sauce with Salmon


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