Gong Hey Fat Choy! February 19th is Chinese New Year. It’s the year of the Ram or Goat, so planning ahead, as that’s a good thing (I’m trying to remember this concept; it’s not going as well as I’d hoped), I’m giving you Asian-type recipes this week, so you can plan your own New Year’s feast to celebrate the year of the Ram. This nice brothy soup, with a real melting pot of Asian flavors, is a great place to start. It can be spiced up with chili sauce, served with or without rice noodles and can be made ahead. The little meatballs are poached in the soup broth, rather than baked or fried, making it simple to prepare and almost a one-pot meal. For this soup, I make the meatballs small, almost bite-sized, but if you wish to make large meatballs, they make a kicking banh mi sandwich. I use a small ice cream scoop, which makes about the perfect sized meatball for soup. I rarely bake meatballs anymore, but rather poach them in broth. If you are going to sauce the meatballs, why bake them. When I do Italian-type meatballs, I poach them right in the tomato sauce. The key is to poach them; the liquid should barely bubble, or the meatballs may fall apart and you will end up with meat sauce! I think it’s a flavor win-win. The meatballs flavor the sauce and the sauce flavors the meatballs! But, if you prefer, by all means, fry or bake them.
Also, as you can see in the picture, I use potato flakes instead of bread crumbs. I like the consistency of the meatball better; they are never too hard or tough. If gluten is an issue, potato flakes solve that problem as well. I find that I need less potato flakes than bread crumbs. Just as an aside, I use potato flakes in meatloaf, too.
Asian Meatball Soup with Rice Noodles
Both the meatballs and the soup can be made ahead, making this a breeze to heat up at the last minute for a party. Let soup cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days; reheat as directed.
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs (or 1/3 cup potato flakes for gluten-free)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic granules or 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons finely minced water chestnuts
- 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
- 1 scallion, finely minced, including some of the green
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 pound lean ground pork
- 6 cups beef broth (I use a good beef soup base and water)
- 2 cups water
- 4 small carrots, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 3 tablespoons finely julienned fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1-2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 cups thinly sliced Chinese cabbage, Savoy cabbage or spinach
- 2 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
- 4-5 fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoon julienned Thai basil
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Lime wedges
- 2-3 teaspoons Asian red chili sauce (sambal olek)
- Pea shoot leaves, torn up
- 8-10 snow peas, very thinly julienned
- Cooked rice noodles
Using a 2-tined fork, beat the egg in a large bowl until blended. Add the pork, bread crumbs (or potato flakes), garlic, water chestnuts, oyster sauce, ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil. Using the fork, gently incorporate seasonings into meat. Shape rounded teaspoons into small meatballs; a very small ice cream scoop is perfect for this. Combine the beef broth and water in a large pot; bring to the boil. Carefully drop the meatballs into the broth and poach until done, about 5 minutes (they will float when done). Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. In necessary, strain the broth to remove any solids; return to the pot. Add the carrots, ginger, garlic and soy sauce. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until carrots are tender and flavors are blended.
Just before serving, reheat soup over medium-high heat until boiling, if necessary. Return the meatballs to the broth; add the vinegar, reduce the heat and simmer until meatballs are heated through. Stir in cabbage, scallions, mint, Thai basil and cilantro and simmer until the cabbage is wilted, about 2 minutes.
To serve, place some cooked rice noodles in each bowl, ladle in the soup with several meatballs and garnish each bowl with pea shoots and snow peas. Serve the chili sauce and lime wedges on the side.
NOTE: You can bake the meatballs in a preheated oven to 400°F on a greased, foil-lined, large rimmed baking sheet for about 15 minutes or until juices run clear. Can be made the day ahead and refrigerated.
Asian Meatball Soup with Rice Noodles Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
I just bought a bottle of an Asian chili sauce from Trader Joe’s; it has lemongrass in it, which adds a nice component to this soup. (In the past, I have added frozen, chopped lemongrass and it’s lovely.) I like to squeeze lime into my soup, but that’s a personal choice.
I really like to add rice noodles, but that’s a choice. If you choose to add rice noodles, bring some salted water to a boil, add the noodles and stir them around until they soften; I use a 2-tined fork for this. Then, making certain the noodles are completely submerged in the water, turn the heat off, cover the pot and let them set for about 5-6 minutes or until they are just al dente. Most of the time, the package instructions call for boiling the noodles, but because they can over-cook so easily, I find this works better. Then, drain them well and run some cold water over them, unless you are using them immediately, then rinsing won’t be necessary. We love this soup. It’s easy, you can make it in the slow cooker, if you wish, but I don’t find this saves much time. I do like this reheated, as I feel the flavor improves. You can also garnish each bowl with some chow mein noodles, if you wish.
Rice noodles, fresh and frozen lemongrass, chili sauce (sambal oelek), canned coconut milk, baby bok choy, Chinese celery (mostly leaves; I’ve mentioned this before) and really tasty, full-flavored cilantro are best purchased from an Asian market. If you live in a larger metropolitan area, chances are there will be such a market. Go there and experience it, particularly on the Chinese New Year’s Eve…very interesting and enlightening experience.