Watercress Steamed Meatballs

March 22, 2023

These watercress steamed meatballs are a healthy twist on the traditional Chinese meatball, using a basic Chinese meatball recipe and the super-healthy watercress.

You must not misunderstand. To be sure, the watercress is the main attraction in these steamed meatballs. These are great at-home supper or dim sum delights because of the combination of the tender beef’s light, bouncy texture with the fresh flavors of the lush greens.

What is Watercress, And Where To Get It?

Although it is widely used in Chinese cookery, Western cooks tend to neglect watercress.

Watercress has a mild peppery flavor when eaten raw and a fresh, sweet, and slightly bitter taste when cooked. It is a source of Vitamin K and 18 other necessary vitamins and nutrients. Watercress is widely available in both conventional supermarkets and Asian markets, where it is typically offered in compact bundles.

Watercress can be eaten raw in salads or stir-fried in various ways, including by itself or added to soups (like our traditional Cantonese watercress pork rib soup) (one of our go-to weeknight vegetable side dishes is a simple stir-fried watercress).

You might have tried it raw in a salad, but we recommend cooking it first. When cooked and combined with a hearty protein like beef, watercress reveals its full, delicious potential.


  • 1 pound of beef chuck (do not trim fat)
  • 2 bunches of fresh watercress (washed and drained, divided)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup of cold water
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (plus 1 teaspoon, divided)
  • 2 teaspoons of Shaoxing wine
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons of dried tangerine peel (coarsely ground)
  • 1 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of finely minced scallion whites
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of grated or finely minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of coriander powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil


  1. Mix ground beef, cold water, and baking soda in a paddle-attached electric mixer. If you have 10 minutes, combine the ingredients on low speed. Instead of a mixer, you can stir the meat and cold water for 15 minutes using a large fork or three chopsticks.
  2. As the beef is stirred, you may notice fragments of fascia or meat fibers clinging to the paddle or fork. Due to their tough and sinewy nature, these should be eliminated immediately upon discovery. To ensure the meat and fat are thoroughly mixed, scrape the basin’s edges.
  3. Mix in the egg white, coriander powder, white pepper, dried tangerine peel, white wine, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, sesame oil, ginger, scallions, sugar, and salt. Combine for 15 minutes while stirring at a moderate speed (or vigorously by hand for 20-25 minutes).
  4. Every 5 minutes, remove any tough fibers or membranes from the paddle attachment and restart the mixer. These sturdy bits tend to stick to the mixing paddle.
  5. For the finest flavor, refrigerate the watercress meatball mixture overnight if you have the time.
  6. To steam the meatballs, bring a pot of water to a boil with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil added. Prepare a 30-second blanch for one bunch of watercress. Drain, flush with cold water, and wring out every last drop of water. Cut the watercress into very little pieces.
  7. Finely cut some watercress and cilantro, add it to the pork and mix it all together by hand.
  8. Put a bed of fresh watercress on a plate made for steaming, and set it over medium heat. One option is to steam in individual portions, like dim sum. Divide the meat into 60g pieces and roll them into balls using lubricated palms.
  9. Prepare a steamer. Start steaming the meatballs for 12 minutes after the water has come to a boil.
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