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What Is a Beef Ball?

By J. Airman
Updated: Feb 29, 2024

Beef balls are a variety of meatball made with finely pulverized beef meat and flavoring most commonly eaten in the southern part of China. They are particularly popular in the areas surrounding Hong Kong. Normally about the size of a walnut, they are similar in appearance to fish balls but are darker in color. They also have similar uses as fish and shrimp balls and can be used in soups or stews or rolled into a wrap and cooked as dim sum. Since the process of pulverizing the meat can be time consuming, beef balls are often eaten at restaurants or purchased frozen at grocery stores.

The texture of a beef ball differs from the texture of a typical meatball because the meat in a beef ball is beaten into a fine paste. Most meatballs are made from meat that is ground, not beaten, and they are not ground to as fine a texture as that found in beef balls. The texture of the meat in a beef ball is closer to chicken nuggets or mechanically separated processed chicken than typical ground beef meatballs.

Like fish and shrimp balls, beef balls are popular in soups and Chinese hot pot, a type of stew that is cooked right at the table. A boiling pot of stock is placed at the center of the table, and ingredients are placed in the stock and allowed to cook. Besides the beef ball, other common ingredients added to Chinese hot pot include thinly sliced frozen meat, seafood and vegetables. Leafy greens like spinach and bok choy and different varieties of mushrooms are also popular ingredients to add to a Chinese hot pot.

When used in soups, balls of meat usually accompany a similar type of broth. Fish broth would call for a fish ball as beef broth would call for the use of a beef ball, and mixed broths often have different kinds of balls. A popular type of soup in Hong Kong mixes both beef balls and fish balls in a mixed broth.

The beef ball is also a popular ingredient used in dim sum, a type of appetizer or small serving food. It is often steamed or fried, most frequently on cabbage or within a wonton wrapper or egg roll. The most popular way of serving a beef ball in dim sum is to steam a marinated beef ball on top of a large cabbage leaf. At a dim sum meal, diners would consume multiple plates of dim sum until they have had their fill. Dim sum are usually served on small plates, and are designed to be eaten in one or two bites.

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Discussion Comments
By donasmrs — On Jul 12, 2014

@burcinc-- Did you use some kind of starch to keep the meat together. I usually use corn starch. Also, after boiling the beef balls, transfer them directly to a large bowl of ice water to harden them. You probably missed this step.

Transferring the beef balls into ice water makes them immediately firm so they will not fall apart. Some people actually dislike beef balls saying that it's springy like a sponge, but that's how they should be.

By burcinc — On Jul 11, 2014

I tried making beef balls last night but they were not firm like the ones I've had at restaurants. They were literally falling apart. I used a food processor to pulverize the meat and boiled them as directed. What might I be doing wrong?

By discographer — On Jul 11, 2014

Chinese hot pot is very cool. We went to a Chinese hot pot restaurant last month and one of the food items we asked for were beef balls. I agree with the article, Chinese beef balls look and taste different than meatballs that we're accustomed to. But I liked the taste and I love the idea of cooking for myself.

We actually cooked and ate the beef balls first. Then we cooked and ate veggies. Finally, we added rice to the pot and drank it as soup when it cooked. The great part about this is that the nutrition and vitamins from the beef balls and the veggies were in the water which basically became broth towards the end. We made rice soup with it, so none of it went to waste.

Dinner took several hours in total but it was fun and we had a lot of time to chat while we cooked and ate our food. I definitely want to do this again sometime.

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