My mom’s Pork Meatball Spinach Soup is light and aromatic with the perfect balance of meat and vegetables. Just what you need for a cold fall/winter day!
It’s finally cooling down in Los Angeles. It’s the time for jackets, soup, stew and hot pot! Woo hoo! Today, I’m sharing one of my mom’s soup recipes.
If you know Chinese cuisine, soup is essential. There is always soup in every dinner. Chinese believe that soup is packed with nutritions and health benefits. Depends on what soup it is, it can improve skin condition, reduce cough/eczema, and reduce allergy symptoms etc. My mom also made us soup every day when my sister and I were in Hong Kong. We each had a big bowl of soup every night. This pork meatball spinach soup is one of my favorites! It’s light with the sweet taste of spinach. And there are meatballs too! Most importantly, it doesn’t require any weird (like Chinese medicine herbs) ingredients.
In this soup, there are mainly 3 ingredients. First, the dried shiitake mushrooms. Dried shiitake has tons of flavors. It’s savory, umami and aromatic. They flavored this soup perfectly. Soak them in cold water for at least 5 hours or overnight to rehydrate them. Dried shiitake can be kept in an air-tight container in the fridge for months or even years (I had used mushrooms that were kept in the fridge for 3 years).
Second, spinach. Wash them, wash them and wash them. There are always tons of dirts in spinach. You need to clean them well. I usually take a huge pot of water. Swish a few leaves in the water. Sands would sink to the bottom. Set the spinach aside to drain. When finished all the spinach, change the water and repeat. I know this takes time to do, but I would at least do it 2 times. You don’t want any sand to ruin your soup.
Last, the pork butt. Let’s be clear. Pork butt is actually the front shoulder, not the butt. Buy a piece with about 20% of fat. You need the fat for the meatballs to be moist and tender. Sorry, lean meat wouldn’t work. I have tried that and the meatballs were so dry and rough. I mince my own meat at home by cutting and chopping it. It’s not complicated at all, just require a little arm power. Cut the meat into slices, then cut into thin strips. Next, cut the strips into tiny cubes. Gather the meat together and pound on them with a heavy knife (cleaver is the best) rapidly. Fold and continue to chop. Repeat until the meat is finely minced. But you can definitely ask your butcher to grind the meat for you.
Now, you have the ground meat. Stir them a few times until the meat gets a little sticky and can hold together. Add marinate ingredients and mix well. Toss in the mushroom cubes and mix again. Form into 12 little meatballs. They are ready to be cooked.
The soup is simply made with water. No chicken broth or anything. The flavors of the spinach, pork and dried shiitake are enough to season the soup. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt. The soup is light, aromatic and very comforting! Hope you will like this too!
My Mom's Pork Meatball Spinach Soup
- 4 medium dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon corn starch (for cleaning mushrooms)
- 10 - 12 ounces spinach
- ½ pound pork butt (with 20% fat)
- 8 cups water
Marinade for meatballs:
- ¼ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon corn starch
- Soak the dried mushrooms in cold water for at least 5 hours or overnight. Rinse mushrooms under running water. Drain. Add 1 tablespoon corn starch. Rub the mushrooms all over with the starch to remove dirt. Rinse. Remove the stems with scissors. Squeeze out as much water as possible. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut into ¼-inch dices. Set aside.
- Wash the spinach thoroughly for at least 2 times to remove all the sand and dirt. Drain. If there are roots, cut to remove.
- For the pork, cut into thin strips. Then, cut the strips into tiny dices. Gather the meat together, pat down slightly. Chop repeatedly and rapidly, fold and chop again. Repeat the same motions until the meat turns into ground meat. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir for a few times until the meat is slightly sticky. Add marinade and mix well. Add the mushroom and mix again. Divide into 12 (1½-inch) portions. Roll into meatballs and squeeze tight slightly.
- In a large pot over high heat, add 8 cups water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add spinach and cook the stems are just softened, about 2 – 3 minutes. Remove the spinach to a large bowl. Add the meatballs and cook until they float, about 3 – 4 minutes. Season with salt to your own taste. Return the spinach to pot and cook for 1 more minute. Turn off the heat. Transfer to serving bowls. Serve immediately.
- Dried shiitake mushrooms take a long time to rehydrate. I recommend soaking them the night before. If you're in a hurry, use warm or hot water for soaking. Although mushrooms will get soften much quicker, but some of the flavors will be lost.
- Get your dried shiitake mushrooms in Asian supermarkets.
- There are lots of dirt on spinach. Wash them for at least 2 – 3 times. No one wants sand in their soup.
- Pork butt is not the butt. It’s the shoulder. The fat distribution of this cut can be varied. Make sure to get a piece with about 20% of fat. If the meat is too lean, the meatballs will be rough. I usually buy ¼ pound extra, so I can trim off parts (either lean meat or fat) that I don’t want.
- It’s common to mince your own meat at home in Chinese cooking. But it is not a must, you can ask your butcher to do it for you.
- If you prefer, you can dip the meatballs into little bit of soy sauce when serving.