Eurasian Prawn Ball Soup (with Homemade Prawn Balls)

A light soup with homemade prawn balls that's perfect for a light meal, with or without rice or noodles.
bowl of prawn ball soup with chilli and soy sauce in little bowls
bowl of prawn ball soup with chilli and soy sauce in little bowls
Light and comforting prawn ball soup

This prawn ball soup is one of my favourite weekend brunches, with homemade stock and prawn balls.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Eurasian Prawn Ball Soup

This prawn ball soup is very similar to the Nyonya Pong Tauhu, which is a Chinese New Year dish for many Nyonya families. Essentially, we have homemade prawn balls in a lightly flavoured broth (soup). The prawn balls here are delicate and airy, nothing like the usual dense Chinese fishballs or meatballs that we would use in other recipes, like in this sambal fishball.

This is a recipe I learnt years and years ago from my old friend, Hyacinth. That’s her, sitting on the extreme left as you look at the picture. We met at my local gym and I was thoroughly impressed with her, she was at least a decade older than me and just so cool!

Apparently, this was a family recipe that she’d always had but not cooked much, and was very happy to share. You know me, always happy to inherit recipes!

I believe this was an Eid dinner at my place, 1992 or 1993

The Recipe

This Eurasian version of the prawn ball soup is a slightly simpler affair in terms of flavour. It’s lighter and doesn’t have that full on taste that’s synonymous with the Peranakan Pong Tauhu.

This is what we’ll be doing:

  1. Clean the prawns, reserving the shells if you have shell on prawns.
  2. Clean the shells and make a quick prawn stock (15 minutes).
  3. Chop all aromatics.
  4. Mince the prawns with a sharp knife or cleaver (about 5 minutes).
  5. Mix everything and make the prawn ball paste (2-3 minutes).
  6. Form the prawn balls.
  7. Get the soup started and cook the balls and vegetables (5 minutes roughly). Done.

What do you think? Sounds doable, right?

The Prawn Balls

Unlike the traditional Chinese fishballs, meatballs or the Indonesian Bakso, our prawn balls are light and airy. The other are dense, and have a springy and chewy texture because of the way they are made. If you take a look at the recipes above, we make the ball pastes in a food processor, or the traditional method, by slamming it down on the counter a gazillion times, to achieve that dense texture.

In our prawn ball soup however, all we do is mix all the ingredients together by hand, using just a little cornflour and tofu as the binders. We then shape the paste into balls. No processing, nothing. That means these prawn balls are a whole lot easier to make!

bowl of prawn ball soup with chilli and soy sauce in little bowls
it’s all about the balls!

The Ingredients

Prawns (Shrimp)

Ideally, you want fresh and raw prawns to cook this recipe. If you can get them with shell on, even better, because we then use the shells to add even more flavour to the soup.

If you can’t get fresh, raw prawns, frozen raw prawns will work just as well.

Never, ever use cooked prawns (or mussels, scallops, etc) for any dish, unless you’re planning to serve the seafood cold without reheating.

Why? Because precooked seafood, with the exception of crabs and lobsters, just doesn’t have anymore flavour to impart to any dish you are cooking. It’s all gone in the initial cooking process, you might as well use paper or cardboard!

Tofu

Tofu is a traditional ingredient when making prawn balls for the Nyonya Pong Tauhu. That’s been retained in this Eurasian version; the tofu acts as a binder as well as lending softness to the balls.

You could even use tofu with medium firmness, but I like the way silken tofu just falls apart and blends with the other ingredients.

The Chicken Stock

Chicken stock forms the base of our soup itself.

If you can, I urge you to make your own chicken stock for this, especially if you don’t live in East or South East Asia. The chicken stock we use here in this recipe is of Chinese inclination, which is a lighter affair than its Western counterpart. Chinese chicken stock, as you will see from the article and recipe here, has minimal flavouring, with no vegetables added.

I published the recipe for Homemade Chinese Chicken Stock last week in anticipation of today’s recipe. You can make it a couple of days early, or freeze it if made before. So I’m not including the chicken stock in this recipe, because it’s been covered.

If you want to use shop bought, hey I’m not going to judge!

jar of yellow coloured Chinese chicken stock
Homemade Chinese chicken stock

Aromatics and Vegetables

We have the usual suspects of garlic and ginger, with a little help from spring onions (scallions) and fresh coriander leaves (cilantro). I think they should all be easily available, no matter where you live, right?

As far as the vegetables are concerned, they only play a small part in our prawn ball soup. Traditionally, it would be Chinese cabbage (Napa cabbage/wombok) that would be used. But I often use the humble white cabbage for this, as I tend to have that around more often, as it lasts a long time in the fridge.

You can also add some spinach or pak choi, for a little green. But whatever you do, go easy, as the prawn balls are the star of this show.

Cellophane Noodles

This is completely optional. Cellophane noodles or soo hoon as we call them, are often used as an ingredient in soups and stews like sayur lemak. We don’t cook them as noodles, but instead use them to add interest and texture to our dishes.

So you could do the same here, if you like, or skip them. You should be able to find them in any East Asian store or here’s my affiliate link to get them on Amazon.

Everything Else

We use cornflour, as mentioned earlier, to bind it all together. You could also use potato starch, if that’s your thing, although not traditional.

Then you have the usual salt, pepper and light soy sauce, nothing to write home about, methinks. Light soy sauce is the lightest and salty one, and is the generic soy sauce mentioned in many recipes. In my recipes though, I always specify if it’s light, dark or sweet (kicap manis).

bowl of prawn ball soup with chilli and soy sauce in little bowls
see how airy it is?

How to Serve Prawn Ball Soup?

This would traditionally be eaten with rice, as many South East Asian meals are. Some sort of sambal is a must with this, chilli chuka, published not too long ago, is the perfect condiment with its tart and spicy flavours.

A Chinese chilli oil, shop bought or homemade, like this one on LinsFood, is also perfect.

If you fancy noodles, you could increase the amount of cellophane noodles in there, or serve this prawn ball soup with some rice vermicelli. Given the subtle nature of the flavours, rice vermicelli is the best option, as wheat noodles need more robust soups and flavours.

And now, shall we get cooking?

If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating!

If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor and hashtag it #linsfood.

Lin xx

More Eurasian Recipes

Seybak
Seybak is a delicious, festive Eurasian salad popular amongst the Portuguese Eurasian community in Singapore and Malaysia. Here, I'm using duck legs, instead of the customary pork belly and chewy pig ears.
Check out this recipe!
duck salad (seybak) in a green bowl with Christmas plates
Ayam Assam Serani
Ayam Assam Serani is a delicious, dry-ish curry with tangy flavours from the Eurasian community in Singapore and Malaysia.
Check out this recipe!
Ayam Assam Serani in a white bowl
Curry Devil
Easy to follow Curry Devil recipe, a Eurasian Christmas tradition, it's also known as Kari Debal or Devil Curry.
Check out this recipe!
Curry Devil Recipe with sausages and chicken
bowl of prawn ball soup with chilli and soy sauce in little bowls

Eurasian Prawn Ball Soup

Azlin Bloor
A light soup with homemade prawn balls that's perfect for a light meal, with or without rice or noodles.
5 from 9 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Main Course with Rice
Cuisine Eurasian
Servings 4 (makes about 16 balls)
Calories 289 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

Prawn Balls
  • 2 spring onions (scallions) just the white part (reserve the green for the soup)
  • 2 sprigs coriander leaves (cilantro)
  • 500 g uncooked prawns (shrimp)
  • 200 g silken tofu
  • ¼ tsp ground white pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ Tbsp cornflour
The Soup
  • Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 5 cm ginger
  • 2 spring onion (the green part)
  • 1 litre homemade Chinese chicken stock (click for recipe) or 1 litre water + 2 stockpots or cubes
  • the shells from your prawns if available
  • 250 ml water only if you have prawn shells
  • ½ Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 200 g Chinese cabbage or regular white cabbage
  • 2 handfuls spinach or pak choi optional (I'm not using it in the image here)
  • 1 "bunch" soo hoon (mung bean thread) optional

Instructions
 

Cleaning the Prawns

  • If using shell on prawns: twist the head off carefully, removing all the shell but the tail end. The intestinal vein that runs along the back of the prawn should be visible and just sticking out. Give it a firm but gentle pull.
    If it's stuck, use a small knife to cut a shallow groove along the back and take the vein out and discard.
  • When done, place the prawns to one side. Then, give all the heads and shells a clean by squeezing the gunk out and rinsing them.
    cleaned prawn shells in white bowl

Quick Prawn Stock

  • Heat ½ a Tbsp of oil in a small saucepan on medium-low heat and fry the cleaned shells for 1 minute.
    Add the water and bring to a simmer. Leave to simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, removing any scum that might be floating at the top.
  • I didn't add much water here, so you won't be getting much stock. This is because we'll be adding it to the chicken stock, it's really the essence of the shells we are going for to add more flavour to our final soup.
    When done, strain and set aside, or as I do, strain straight into the chicken stock.
    straining homemade prawn stock

Prep Work (Chopping and Stuff)

  • Chop up the spring onions and coriander leaves for the prawn balls finely. Add to a large bowl.
    Slice the garlic and ginger, width wise.
    Slice the cabbage thinly, no matter which type you're using. If using pak choi, separate the leaves, clean and set aside.

Make the Prawn Balls

  • Using a large, sharp knife or cleaver, mince the prawns finely, as much as you can. Don't worry about the odd tiny lump. Add to the bowl.
  • Add the silken tofu into the bowl, crumbling it as you go. Add the white pepper, salt and cornflour.
  • Using your hands, mix everything up well, mashing up the tofu as you go along.
    prawn ball paste all mixed in a glass bowl
  • Rinse your hands, and with slightly wet hands, form balls from this prawn and tofu paste.
    To make fairly similar sized balls, I usually divide the mixture in half, then half again, giving me 4 quarters. Then I proceed to form 4 fairly equal sized prawn balls from each quarter. Set aside, while we move on to the soup.
    holding homemade prawn ball in palm

Prawn Ball Soup

  • I'm assuming you've made the chicken stock, if not, that's something we want to do about 3 hours before we start on the prawn balls. Unless you're using stock cubes or stockpots.
    Heat 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a large saucepan on medium heat and fry the chopped garlic, ginger and spring onion greens for 30 seconds.
  • Add the chicken stock or water plus stock cubes. If you have homemade prawn stock from the shells, add that in too.
    Bring to a simmer, then add the cabbage and soy sauce.
  • Now, very gently, drop your prawn balls into your simmering soup, one at a time. Don't burn your fingers. Use a ladle to transfer the balls into the soup, if you prefer, so as not to scald your fingers.
    These prawn balls are delicate so go easy. You could place 2 or 3 in a ladle and carefully ease them into the soup if you like.
  • If using mung bean thread, add it in now. Bring back to a simmer, then cook for 3 minutes. Add pak choi or spinach and heat through for a minute.
    Taste the soup and add more soy sauce or salt if needed.
    Serve with some rice or noodles, as described in the article above. Have some sambal or chilli chuka at hand to complete the soup.
    cooked homemade prawn ball in black slotted spoon

Nutrition

Calories: 289kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 35gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.04gCholesterol: 209mgSodium: 797mgPotassium: 785mgFiber: 1gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 334IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 133mgIron: 2mg
Keyword prawn balls, prawns, soup
Tried this recipe?Mention @azlinbloor or tag #linsfood!
Made it? Upload your Photos!Mention @azlinbloor or tag #linsfood!

Share this with Someone!

5 thoughts on “Eurasian Prawn Ball Soup (with Homemade Prawn Balls)”

  1. 5 stars
    I love meals that get done in 20 minutes and look this satisfying. Really easy to follow delicious recipe. Wonderful tips on cleaning the prawns.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating