Jun 9, 2019

Meatballs with Preserved Mustard Greens 梅菜肉丸

Mustard greens "jie cai" (芥菜) has many forms in Asian cuisine. Besides fresh mustard greens, once salt cured and fermented, it became pickled mustard greens "suan cai" (酸菜). From there, further dried up to about 70%, the name changed to "fu cai" (福菜). Once dried all the way, it has reached its final form "meigan cai" (梅干菜).

The name can be very confusing, and so does the taste. Taken from the same vegetable, the flavors vary widely depending on the time of  preserving and drying. I guess the best way is finding a chance to try them all to get a better understanding of such versatile leafy greens.

Meatballs with preserved mustard greens/meigan cai -


  • 1 cup loosely packed preserved mustard greens (meigan cai)
  • 0.8 lb lean ground pork
  • 0.8 lb coarse ground pork
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • 1 slice ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • Some cilantro
  • Some water


Soak the preserved mustard greens first in cold water for about 15 minutes. Drain and dry well with kitchen towel. Give it a few chops if the leafy pieces are too long. Make sure it's small enough to be mixed with ground pork then form into meatballs.

Peel the garlic cloves. Destem the scallion then cut into about 2-inch long sections.

Prepare a big container, mix in all the ground pork, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of corn starch, and chopped preserved mustard greens. Mix and form into medium sized meatballs. Try to toss the meatballs between palms, back and forth, to draw out trapped air.

Transfer these meatballs into a clay pot. Arrange garlic cloves, scallion sections, and ginger slice throughout.

Pour in about 2/3 cup of soy sauce along with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Skim off any grayish brownish foam floating on top during the process. Cover with lid and continue to cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Remember to flip the meatballs once or twice during the process for even coloring. 

Depending on preference, this can serve with some sauce or simply cook till nearly fully reduced. I waited a wee bit too long so all the sauce has been completely dried up and slightly burnt the bottom of my meatballs. But hey, at least they still taste good.

Plate and garnish with cilantro and some black pepper.

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