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winter dishes

109. Chinese soup: Meat balls and Chinese leaves soup


how to make Chinese meat mince ball with leaves
Chinese soup with meat balls and leaves

Normally I would leave this kind of dish for the weekend, but since we are in Chinese new year time, every dish is a ‘weekend’ dish, no? Ha… Just spoil ourselves. And don’t worry about putting on weight, next month, I am thinking of sharing some of my Chinese ‘detox’ recipes. :))

The original version of this dish comes with meat balls and ‘little bok choy’, a type of northeast green leaves (see  Chinese leaves). It is called ‘Xiao bai cai chuan wan zi’, literal translation is little bok choy with meat balls ‘inserted’ in them. But since here in UK, I cannot find this particular type of leaves, (and the bok choy usually sold in the supermarkets is not suitable for this dish), I will use Chinese leaves instead.

The original dish with ‘little bok choy’ is normally prepared in spring or summer, because it is when this particular type of vegetables is on season. My version with Chinese leaves becomes a perfect winter recipe — warming up your stomach, as well as taking in plenty of essential nutrients. Oh, saying that, I lately read an article discussing whether ‘we should eat more for winter’ — the thing is I don’t think we particularly need to eat much more in winter, but we do need to have more ‘heavy’ and warm food to help us fight the cold, no? At least, I do, that is why my friends always say that I become a balloon in winter — quickly ‘blown up’, even I did not eat that much. Ha…

Ok, coming back to this recipe… One could say that it is a typical northeast Chinese soup. In contrast to many Western soups, this one is rich in types of ‘contents’ (see my previous post for soup). I mean you are going to have lots of things to chew as well as having the soup, it is more like a way of cooking the dish, rather than purposely making a clear soup.

The recipe is quite simple, the main feature is that the meat balls are never ‘pre-fried’ or grilled first, just left in the soup straight away, so the meat balls taste really fresh, so is the soup. Yes, the fat from the meat can be released to the soup, but with the leaves, the soup itself does not taste greasy, rather light.

Oh, if you can find those ‘little bok choy’, you might also like to put some Fensi in the soup, making the taste even richer. :))

Here is how I made it with Chinese leaves.


Meat mince (I used beef mince, 200gm), Chinese leaves

Oil, spring onion, ginger, ground Sichuan peppercorn, salt, sesame oil, light soy sauce, MSG/vegetable/mushroom/chicken essence (optional), corn flour, plain flour, coriander (optional).


1) Mix the mince with 1 tablespoon of oil, a bit more than 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2/3 tablespoon of light soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 2 tablespoon of corn flour, 1 full tablespoon of plain flour. The mince mix is supposed to be a bit thick, can hold together. You can make the mix into the mince ball shape, if you like. (I say this only because the shape is not that important in this dish.)

how to make simple Chinese meat balls soup at home
Mixing the mince

2) Chop 2/3 spring onion and a good size of ginger into strips.

Chinese soup with meat balls and chinese leaves
Chopping spring onion and ginger

3) Wash and chop half of the Chinese leaves. (It is better a mix of leaves part and white part.)

4) Chop a small bunch of coriander into around 4cm long pieces — if you plan to use it.


1) In a heated wok, pour in around 3-4 tablespoons of oil.

cook Chinese meat ball soup with chinese leaves at home
Stir frying spring onion and garlic

2) When the oil is hot, add in chopped spring onion and ginger and 1/2 teaspoon ground sichuan peppercorn, stir fry until you can smell them.

3) Add in water. (Depends if you want more ‘soup, then add more water, vice versa.) And bring water to boiling.

Chinese soup recipe with meat balls and chinese leaves

4) Then add in chopped the leaves. Bring the content to boil again.

how to make Chinese soup with meat balls

5) Only when the soup is boiling, add in the mince balls. That way, it is easier to prevent the mince balls from falling in apart.

Chinese recipe make Chinese meat balls soup with Chinese leaves
Adding in the mince balls

6) Leave it boiling for a while, when the mince balls are getting ‘firmer’, add in 1 teaspoon of salt (alter the amount if you need, but bear in mind that the mince balls are already salted), 1 tablespoon light soy sauce, MSG/vegetable/mushroom/chicken essence (optional), and chopped coriander.

how make simple Chinese meat ball soup

7) Lower down the fire, keep on cooking for further 10 minutes or a bit longer, to allow all the flavors mix well in the soup. —

Chinese soup recipe meat ball soupChinese soup recipe with meatballs and chinese leaves

—- Done!! Before serving, you can add a few drops of sesame oil if you like.

I like to have it with boiled rice, or steamed Chinese bread or flat bread (bing). Enjoy winter! :)

Related posts:

100. A typical Northeast Chinese dish: “mess stew” with beef, tomato, aubergine and potato


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