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  • Writer's pictureTina Brand

Hainan Meatball Soup

I don’t know if we ever discussed this, but the name Hainan Meatballs is entirely a made up one. I made up this recipe many years ago, and instead of calling them plain old pork balls, I named them after a part of China many of my school friends’ ancestors come from. I guess it tastes vaguely Chinese, but I doubt anyone worth their salt in China would be making dumplings quite this simple! Still, no one ever stopped at one of these: they are certainly worth making, whatever the hybrid. You can steam these babies and serve them warm with a sauce as an hors d'oeuvre, or combine with a chicken noodle soup for something quite glorious and warming for dinner on a cold night.

Hainan Meatballs in Chicken Noodle Soup


  • 1/2 kg pork mince (you can also try a combination of chicken mince with a cupful of shelled and chopped prawn meat- yummy!)

  • 1 bunch fresh coriander/cilantro ( washed, and chopped, stalks included)

  • 2-3 stalks spring onion, sliced fine

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 1x 250 g can water chestnuts (chopped)

  • 1/4 cup panko crumbs


  1. Mix all the ingredients together well, and form into balls, each about the size of a golf ball. 

  2. Set aside the meatballs on a plate ( 1/2 kg should make about 15 balls).

For the Soup:

  • 2-3 chicken carcasses

  • 3 litres tap water

  • two celery stalks

  • 1 carrot

  • 1 small onion

  • 2 star anise seeds

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns

  • Juice of half a lemon

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1/2 packet rice or any noodles of choice, cooked according to instructions on the packet, and kept aside

  • 2 cups chopped green leafy vegetables of choice ( kai lan, boy choy, baby spinach leaves, etc)


  1. Place the celery, carrots and onion (unpeeled) in a large stock pot of the water, with the chicken carcasses.

  2. Add the anise, cinnamon stick and peppercorns, and bring the pot to the boil.

  3. Turn the heat to very low and simmer for about one to one and a half hours.

  4. Turn the heat off and cool slightly.

  5. Now pour the stock through a colander into a clean bowl, and discard the mix of bones and veggies.

  6. Pour the stock back into the pan over a low flame.

  7. Add the lemon juice and the fish sauce.

  8. Check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to your liking; chicken soup done.

To Serve:

Bring the chicken soup to a boil.

Drop the meatballs into the pot and cook for five minutes.

Now add the vegetables.

In four bowls, place a small amount of the noodles and drizzle over with a little of the serving sauce.

Now pour some soup and meatballs with veggies over the noodles.

Serve hot.

Serving sauce:

Mix together well the following ingredients-

2 tablespoons of your favourite chilli paste like sambal olek or chilli and prawn paste.

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon soft brown sugar


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