Tender and springy meatballs cooked in tomato and shiitake soup. This chicken meatball noodle soup is very tasty and comforting.
I love minced meat for its versatility. It’s the major component of dumplings, potstickers and bao buns. It’s also used as a noodle topping or to add that X-factor to stir-fries, etc. Yesterday I used minced chicken breast to make meatballs, cooked in tomato and shiitake soup, accompanied by noodles. It was very satisfying!
How to make tender meatballs
When I was a postgraduate student in England, I learned how to make tender, springy meatballs from my roommate Libby. Ever since then I think of her every time I cook meatballs. She told me that using egg white and corn starch is the key to success. They help the mince to combine as well as to stay moist and tender. She also advised swirling the mince constantly in the same direction. This will give meatballs a springy texture.
You might ask me “How about the egg yolk then?” Don’t worry! Nothing is wasted in this chicken meatball noodle soup. I simply drop the yolk into the soup, along with the raw meatballs. Another tip: the best (safest) way to check if the meatballs are fully cooked is to open one or two and have a look. Turn off the heat straight away when they are done because overcooked meatballs will have a harder texture.
How to rehydrate shiitake mushrooms
To me, tomato works wonders in all types of soup. And a pinch of white pepper provides a great addition to its sweet and sour flavour. I also use dried shiitake mushrooms in this chicken meatball noodle soup for its distinctive aroma. Soak them in cold water prior to cooking, 8-12 hours at least. Well rehydrated shiitake are full of flavour and soft. They won’t have a rubbery texture (some people suggest soaking them in hot water for a short period of time. Believe me, you won’t get the same result). You may replace shiitake with other mushrooms, preferably wild ones.
Cook noodles in a separate pot
When it comes to noodle soup, I’d like to clarify one thing (it may be obvious to some of you). You always need to cook noodles in a separate pot with lots of water then add the cooked noodles to whatever soup you are serving. One of my friends back in Switzerland was very surprised when I told her so. She used to boil noodles in the soup. There is not enough liquid for a start, and the extra starch coming off the noodles would change the flavour of the soup.
Chicken meatball noodle soup (肉丸汤面)
For the meatballs
- 250 g minced chicken, 9oz, see note 1
- 1 stalk scallions, finely chopped
- 1 egg white
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 pinch white pepper
- ½ tsp light soy sauce
For the soup
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 stalk spring onion, chopped
- 5 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and sliced , see note 2
- 4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 750 ml hot water, 3 cups
- ¼ tsp salt, or to taste
- 1 pinch white pepper
- coriander, chopped , to taste
- Chinese chilli oil, to taste, optional
You also need
- 4 portions dried noodles, or hand-pulled noodles
Prepare the meatballs
- In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs. Swirl constantly in the same direction until the mixture becomes very sticky.
- Use your hands or spoons to shape the mince into balls. Wet hands or spoons with water before making each ball to reduce stickiness. Set aside.
Cook the noodles
- Following the instructions on the package, cook the dried noodles.
Make the soup
- In the meantime, heat up the oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Stir in spring onion and shiitake mushrooms. Cook until fragrant.
- Add tomato then fry until a bit mushy. Pour in hot water. Cover the wok with a lid. Leave to simmer until the tomato is very soft.
- Turn the heat up to high. Gently place the meatballs one after another into the soup. Boil until the meatballs are fully cooked (check one ball. Do not overcook ).
- Sprinkle with salt, white pepper and coriander.
- Serve it hot with well drained noodles. Add some Chinese chilli oil if you wish.