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This easy Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup has tender pork meatballs and watercress greens in a super flavorful broth.

Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup

Here in New England, Mother Nature hasn’t really committed to the fact that it’s Springtime. One day, it’s sunny and (relatively) warm and we’re opening the windows to let in fresh air.  Then, the next few days are so cold and dreary, we’re turning the heat back on in our house.

On those cold and rainy days, soup is always on the menu like this Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup (or Cahn – which translates to soup in Vietnamese).

Our recipe today is (gently) adapted from one that appeared on Chris Kimball’s Milk Street cooking show on Create TV. As we often do, Jack and I were watching it one evening, when this Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup was featured – and we immediately wanted to make it.


Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup

How do you make Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup?

You’ll start by making some simple pork meatballs. Ground pork, chopped scallions, egg white, fish sauce, and ginger, plus salt and pepper are mixed together and formed into balls.

While the meatballs chill in the refrigerator, you’ll make a simple broth made from chicken stock, sautéed onions and garlic, lime juice, and fish sauce.

Next, place the pork meatballs into the stock to cook through. Then, add fresh watercress (leaves and stems) to the soup.

Serve your Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup with a sprinkle of scallion greens on top.


Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup

This Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup has so many wonderful flavors! The broth is both peppery from the watercress, and slightly tart from the lime juice – a bright, flavor profile that is common in Vietnamese cooking.

The tender pork meatballs also get a nice kick of flavor from the chopped scallions and fresh ginger. And fish sauce – in both the meatballs and the broth adds a wonderful umami flavor you’ll absolutely love. (If you’ve never cooked with fish sauce, don’t be intimidated to try it! We highly recommend the Red Boat brand fish sauce.)

Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup


Cooking with Watercress

Watercress is a leafy green that you can find at most supermarkets these days. Eaten raw, it has a peppery taste. When added to this Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup, it retains some of that peppery bite and it goes nicely with the other flavors of this soup.

Watercress is loaded with vitamins and nutrients – and because of that, it’s considered a superfood.

By the way — in addition to this Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup being very delicious, it also happens to be low-carb too!

You may enjoy these other Asian-inspired soups:

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Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup

Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup

  • Author: A Family Feast
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Category: soup
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: Asian


Adapted from Milk Street.


1 pound ground pork

6 scallions, divided

1 large egg white

3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided (we recommend Red Boat)

4 teaspoons freshly grated ginger, divided

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or other neutral oil

1 ½ cups onion, coarsely chopped

4 medium garlic cloves sliced

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 quarts good-quality canned chicken stock, or better yet, homemade

12 bunches watercress (about 4 ounces in weight once picked from stems)


Make the meatballs. Place the ground pork, minced scallion bottoms, egg white, 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce, 2 teaspoons of the ginger and all of the salt and pepper.

Gently mix to combine. Then line a small sheet pan or platter with parchment and spray slightly with pan spray. Divide the mixture into 16 and gently roll into meatballs. (Gently is the key, just toss between wet hands until round).

Place on the sheet tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.

While the meatballs are chilling, start the soup.

In a 3-4 quart pot, heat oil over medium heat and add the onions and saute for two minutes.

Add the garlic and remaining 2 teaspoons of ginger and saute for two more minutes.

Add lime juice and cook one minute, then add chicken stock and remaining two tablespoons of fish sauce.

Bring to a simmer and simmer gently until the onions are tender, about ten minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the meatballs from the refrigerator and carefully lift and drop one at a time into the simmering soup.

Increase heat until bubbling then lower again to a simmer and simmer about 20 minutes until meatballs are cooked through and tender.

Add the watercress, stir, remove from heat and serve with the scallion greens minced over the top of each portion.

Keywords: Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup


Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup


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  • Kyle Childress wrote:

    The soup is delicious. The meat balls less so because mine have 4 teaspoons of ginger. That’s because the ingredient list doesn’t say that those four teaspoons should be divided.

    • Martha wrote:

      Fair criticism Kyle – thanks for calling that out, and I’ll make the edit now. (We did, however, specify 2 teaspoons in the instructions…I’m guessing you missed that detail?) Thanks for letting us know about the omission in the ingredients list.

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