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Noodle Soup with Pork Balls and Onion Pancakes

October 19, 2011

This soup is incredibly filling and a good way to get some green vegetables into kids almost without them realising it. I sometimes vary the vegetables according to what I have handy in the vegie crisper, but the ones I’ve included here are pretty much the constants.

The pork ball soup recipe is my own concoction, mashed up from a few different Thai/Vietnamese recipes, and a bit of guesswork as to what’s gone into similar dishes I’ve eaten.

The onion pancake recipe is from Kenneth Lo’s, well, encyclopaedic, Encyclopedia of Regional Chinese Cooking, which I bought way back in 1984. A great book if you can find it. I’ve barely made a tenth of the recipes in it, I should think.

I apologise if a lot of the amounts are somewhat provisional. I tend to revise the amounts up and down, depending on how many I’m cooking for, what I have to hand, and, frankly, just instinct.

The pancakes aren’t strictly necessary, but I do find they tend to be a popular accompaniment with the soup. They’re also pretty good on their own, especially rolled up with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce.

What do I need?

Pork Balls

  • 500-750g minced pork
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1-2 Spring onions (scallions)
  • 1 tbsp coriander (cilantro) or Vietnamese mint
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce

For a vegetarian option, try replacing the pork balls with some marinated tempeh. Chicken mince also goes well.


  • 1-3 packets (usually about 200-250g each) of noodles.
    Use Hokkien, Udon, Singapore, those flat rice noodles, whatever. Even 2 minute noodles, if that’s all you’ve got!
  • 3 or 4 Spring onions
  • 1 or 2 small chillis
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 4-6 cups (1 – 1 1/2 litres) of chicken stock
  • 1/2 Wong Bok (Chinese cabbage)
  • 1 or 2 Bok Choy
  • 1/2 Cup or so of sliced green beans
    (or small handful of snow peas aka mangetout)
  • 1 or maybe 2 finely sliced (julienned) carrots
  • 1-3 packets (usually about 200-250g each) of noodles.
    Use Hokkien, Udon, Singapore, those flat rice noodles, whatever. Even 2 minute noodles, if that’s all you’ve got!


  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 or 3 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt

What do I do?

I find it easiest to start the pancakes first.

The Pancakes

Sift the flour into a bowl, and then pour in the boiling water, stirring all the time to make a stiff dough (the boiling water will help burst the starch grains and make the flour softer). Add the cold water until the dough is cool enough to handle, then knead it until it’s smooth. Cover it and rest it for about 30 minutes. While the dough is resting, chop the onions, and start preparing the pork balls and vegetables for the soup.

When the dough has rested, roll it into a long sausage and divide it up into about 10 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then roll it flat with a rolling pin into about a 10cm (3-4 inch) pancake. Mix the salt with the chopped onion, and sprinkle each pancake with onion. Fold the edges of the pancake into the middle, and then roll it flat into a pancake again.

Fry each pancake on both sides in a little oil, until they’re golden (well, golden with black/brown spots everywhere). Stack them on a plate and leave in a warm oven.

The Pork Balls

Chop the spring onions, and combine with the pork, egg, flour, coriander, ginger and sauces.

Heat some oil in a fry pan. Pick up a small handful of the mince mixture, shape it into a rough ball, and fry it in the oil. Cook the balls in batches in the frypan until they’re all done. Put them on a plate in the warm oven until you’re ready to serve.

The Soup

If you’re reasonably dextrous in the kitchen, you should be able to get the soup happening at the same time as you’re frying the pork balls. If you’re still a little unsure about juggling two jobs at once, wait until you’ve fried all the pork balls before you take on the soup. They’ll keep fine in the oven until the soup is done.

If you’re using flat rice noodles or Singapore noodles, you’ll need to set a pot of water boiling, and quickly cook them while you prepare the soup. Udon or Hokkien noodles can usually be prepared just by steeping them in a bowl of boiling hot water for a few minutes, until they’re softened, then drain of the water.

Chop the spring onions and chillis, and quickly fry them in a little hot oil, with the minced ginger.

Pour in the stock, and bring it to the boil. Reduce the stock to a simmer, add the rest of the vegetables, and cook them for a few minutes until they’re just cooked. You really don’t need to cook the vegetables much at all. If they’re heated through, then they’re done!

When the soup is ready, season it to taste, and then stir through the noodles.

Dish the vegetables and noodles into a bowl, add a couple of the pork balls, and pour some more broth over all. Serve with the pancakes.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2011 2:23 pm

    That’s awesome you’ve had a cookbook that long. Looks like it’s for a good reason too!

    • October 19, 2011 10:16 pm

      I’ve got a couple of the same vintage. Another is a Margaret Fulton vegetarian cookbook.

      I’ve been meaning to write about the love of cookbooks at some stage, but I’m in the middle of exam season, right now.

  2. October 19, 2011 2:54 pm

    What a tantalizing title – got me super interested! Great meal!
    Have a super day.
    🙂 Mandy

    • October 19, 2011 10:18 pm

      I made it when one of my youngest son’s friends was around, last week. I figured he’d probably hate it, but feedback from his Mum was that he liked it. I was flattered.

  3. October 21, 2011 8:49 pm

    I can almost taste this soup as I read the ingredients. I absolutely LOVE the onion pancakes…I can see a few more uses for them (like scooping up some dip, for example). Here’s a little tip for the fresh ginger…keep it in the freezer and use a micro plane to grate it, no need to defrost. I don’t know about you, but i used to throw away shriveled up ginger all the time, and I never do now!

    • October 21, 2011 10:35 pm

      Okay, I’ll try that. I just tend to keep a jar of minced ginger in the fridge. It keeps forever, and the taste is pretty good. Unlike the jars of minced garlic: smells like garlic, but tastes like, well, not really like garlic.

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