What’s cooking today: Asian meatballs with Chinese cabbage

What’s cooking today: Asian meatballs with Chinese cabbage
Tony Jackman’s air fryer Asian meatballs with Chinese cabbage. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Meatballs are a cinch to cook in your air fryer, and from now on I plan to make these regularly: that’s how pleased I was with how wonderfully they turned out.

Here’s a spicy air fryer recipe that also brings the wok into play. The meatballs are moist and delicious, with a pleasing exterior crunchiness. They go perfectly with Chinese cabbage cooked in a wok with Asian aromatics.

When it comes down to it, an air fryer is now one of the variety of implements in your kitchen, and should be seen in tandem with all the rest in your cooking armoury. So get the wok onto the stove to cook one thing while the air fryer takes care of another.

By “Chinese cabbage” I mean the variety of this cabbage usually sold in South Africa by that name, rather than bok or pak choy, which are similar, smaller and brighter green in colour. “Chinese cabbage” is known in many parts of the world as napa cabbage. They are much bigger and paler in colour than bok or pak choy.

Bear in mind that when it is cooked, like any other cabbage, it reduces greatly, so one cabbage may well serve only two people. Cabbage behaves like spinach in this regard.

(Serves 2)


For the meatballs (makes 6): 

600 g beef mince

1 onion, grated

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 cm piece of fresh ginger, grated

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp sticky plum sauce

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

4 spring onions, chopped

1 red chilli, chopped

1 tsp sesame oil

2 eggs

Salt to taste

White pepper to taste

Cooking oil spray

For the cabbage:

1 Chinese (napa) cabbage, finely shredded

4 spring onions, chopped

1 red chilli, chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

A splash of wok oil

Splash of soy sauce

Dash of rice wine vinegar, or similar

1 tsp sesame oil


Grate the peeled onion and put it in a colander. Push it down to help get rid of the excess onion water.

Put the beef mince into a large bowl and add the onion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sticky plum sauce, rice wine vinegar, spring onions, chilli, and sesame oil. Season with salt and white pepper.

Make a well, break the eggs into it, and quickly beat it with a fork. 

Use clean hands to work the mixture until everything is well combined and evenly distributed.

Divide the mixture equally into six balls, patting them between your palms to firm them up. There’s no need to dip them in flour.

Spray the air fryer basket with cooking oil spray. Place the meatballs inside with space between them and air fry (after preheating your machine for a few minutes) at 190℃ for 14 minutes, then turn and air fry for another three minutes.

Meanwhile, shred the Chinese cabbage, chop the spring onions and chilli and slice the garlic.

Add some wok oil to a cold wok, put it on the heat and, when hot, add the cabbage, spring onions, chilli and garlic, and stir fry for barely a minute.

Quickly add the soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil, toss in the wok while on the heat, and serve with the meatballs arranged on top. DM

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed in a bowl by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.


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