One-pot Chinese Cabbage and Meatballs

Chinese cabbage and meatballs in a wok

What’s better for a cold winter night (yes it’s winter down here!)than this one-pot Chinese cabbage and meatballs, warm, simple and delicious!

Jin holding a Chinese cabbage
Chinese cabbage and mince

This Chinese cabbage recipe uses the same type of cabbage that Kim-chi is made of. It used to be the most important winter vegetable in north China (that is before the arrival of air-freighted vegetables), bulky with fluffy thick layers, white stems and light-green leaves. I often get confused by the various names it is referred to in English, and I think we should end all the confusion by adopting its unmistakably simple Chinese name — “big white vegetable” (大白菜).

Stir-fried, stewed, steamed, poached or pickled, the number of Chinese dishes using this “big white vegetable” is countless. The leaf, the stem and the yellowy core each has their own array of recipes. You can have it day after day and never be bored with the most versatile vegetable — the Chinese cabbage.

For this one-pot dish, use a few large layers of the Chinese cabbage. The volume will reduce dramatically once the cabbage is cooked. Roughly separate the stem and the leafy part before cutting. Make sure you have boiling water ready when you heat the oil. Have the mince mix ready before cooking, but you don’t make the meatballs yet until the cabbage is already cooking. The cabbage will be flavoured in the liquid while the meatballs are being poached. I like to add some sweet potato vermicelli to increase the volume and reduce the liquid but this is optional. Apart from seasoning the mince to make the meatballs, you don’t have to add extra seasoning into the poaching liquid. It’s a easy and light dish!

Preparation: 5 minutes Cooking: 15-20 minutes

  • 6 to 8 large Chinese cabbage layers, cut across into 5cm wide strips
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 bundle of sweet potato vermicelli, soaked in hot water to soften (optional)
    Meatball mix:

  • mince (beef, lamb or pork)
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
Use a wooden spoon to stir the meatball mix (in a motion similar to beating eggs) until the mix has a consistent texture. Set aside.

Boil 1.5 liter of water. Heat the oil in a wok, stir-fry chopped the stems for 1 minute. Add chopped leaves, followed by boiling water. Use a spoon to push everything under the water. Bring back to boil, push everything towards the edge of the wok to make space for poaching the meatballs.

Wet your hands, make one meatball and drop it into the boiling liquid in the wok. Repeat until the mince is used up. Add sweet potato vermicelli, cover the wok, keep the liquid boiling gently until the meatballs are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer into a large bowl and serve.

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