You Mian Jin Sai Rou | Shanghainese gluten meatballs

“You mian jin” refers airy, fried balls made with wheat gluten that you can find in an Asian grocery store like Ranch 99. Once cooked, these balls turn into a chewy texture, that’s almost meat-like. In conversations with friends, it seems like other people grew up eating them in hot pot, and I can totally see why, they absorb sauces and flavors so well!

A popular shanghainese way to cook these is to fill them with minced pork and cook them in a hong shao sauce (my task as a kid was to do all the poking of the holes so my mom could stuff them hehe). “Hong shao” means “red-cooked” and refers to the slightly sweetened soy sauce braise that’s common in Shanghaiinese cooking. I love braised napa cabbage so I always add a few of those leaves in to cook as well. If you’d prefer to not use a soy braise, you can also drop them into hot pot or soup to cook 🙂

I used for the gluten balls:

  • 1 pack of fried gluten balls (~12-15 balls)
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • greens of 1/2 a scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp shaoxing wine
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch of sugar

For the braise:

  • 1 scallion, cut into 2-inch wide sections, vertically slice the fatter white parts
  • 4 napa cabbage leaves, cut into 1 inch sections
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce 
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1.5 cups water
  • pinch of salt

To make:

  • mix together the pork filling ingredients well, stirring until the pork has a slightly sticky look to it
  • poke a hole in the gluten ball with your thumb, use your thumb to gently break the inner structure more so you can get more filling in (try to do so without making the opening too big)
  • use a chopstick to stuff the pork filling into the fried gluten ball until it’s full (note: you’ll likely have some pork filling leftover, you can turn this into wontons or pan-fry it as little meat patties)
  • heat up some neutral oil in a pan over medium heat and saute scallions until fragrant ~1 minute
  • then add in the soy sauce, dark soy, shaoxing wine, sugar, water, and salt, and bring to a low boil
  • then add in the napa cabbage and stuffed gluten balls and turn the heat down to medium low, let simmer covered for ~20 minutes, flipping the balls half way through
  • remove from heat and serve!