Jan 5, 2014

No Fuss Cooking - Steamed Beef Balls with Chives and Napa Cabbage

Happy New Year!

I hope you had a great new year's eve celebration either with families, friends, pets, or even just by yourself. Either way, staying wide awake all night and perhaps all the way till sunrise can be somewhat exhausting. It can take days to recuperate for old bones like me. Catching up some resting hours is important, but how do we manage to eat well while there's not much energy left to do all the cooking and cleaning? Steamed food is the way to go.

All you need to do is to mix up the ingredients and steam till fully cooked through for this Chinese beef balls recipe. There won't be grease left in the kitchen - like a battle after stir-frying or searing food. The beef mixture can also be transformed into other dishes which help in savving even more time to do other things, such as catching up some sleep. I'll elaborate on the creative use of beef mixture in the end of this recipe.

Steamed beef balls with chives and napa cabbage - 


  • A little bit over 1 lb of ground beef
  • 1/2 box of firm tofu
  • 1 bundle of chives (about 5 tablespoons of chopped chives)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon of black bean soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock
  • Some napa cabbage
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Some sesame oil or Sichuan peppercorn oil
  • Some Sriracha sauce


Let's first get the preparation work done. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Zest the lemon and grate the ginger. Break the firm tofu into small pieces. Lastly, chop the chives.

Take a big bowl and mix in the following ingredients: ground beef, tofu, chopped chives, chopped garlic, lemon zest, black bean soy sauce, soy sauce, chili sauce, grated ginger, and a tiny dash of sesame oil. Mix well then pour in small amount of chicken stock at a time then mix again. The meat will gradually suck in the liquid and this step will help the meat balls stay moist after steaming. Use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of chicken stock for the mixture. Wait till the liquid has been absorbed before forming the meat into balls. 

Take a big plate with some depth and lay the napa cabbage on top. Overlapping is fine, just make sure the plate is fully covered by the cabbage.

Carefully put the beef balls on top of the napa cabbage.

Make sure the water is boiling before putting the plate into a steamer. I simply take a deep pan/pot and put a wire rack in the center to create some height. Pour in some water till about 0.3 inch below the tip of the rack. Cover with a lid and bring the water to a boil first. Transfer the beef balls to the pan once the temperature rises. Cover with lid then steam for 20 to 25 minutes.

I personally prefer to use a deeper container instead of the plate shown in the picture. Usually another shallow plate is used as a lid for this container to cover the ingredients during the steaming process. Some use a cling foil instead but I never feel safe enough using it in high heat environment. The lid will keep the meatballs moist and lock in the flavors. However, there weren't enough plates to choose from so I had to reluctantly omit this step.

Once ready, drizzle some Sichuan peppercorn oil over the beef balls and garnish with some Sriracha sauce.

The meat mixture can also be "modified" into other dishes, below are some suggestions but don't limit yourself with these ideas:

1. Form the beef mixture into patties and transfer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Top each patty with cheddar cheese or other cheese mixture. Finish cooking in the oven till the center of the meat has been fully cooked through and the cheese starts oozing.

2. Stir fry the mixture with some chopped garlic and chilies. Perhaps season with some soy sauce, black vinegar, Sriracha, and sesame oil. Beef mixture turns into stir fry ground meat, which matches well with rice, noodles, pasta, and even tortilla or lettuce wraps.


  1. The chives must be giving the meatballs good flavor - it is enjoying dumplings/wontons without the dough/skin. Love!

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