Savoury No-Fish Ball Noodle Soup is my plant-based take on Asian fish ball noodles. It’s quick and easy with just five ingredients and ready in 30 minutes. Fish ball soup is a staple in my Chinese family, so I’m happy this vegan version comes close to the real thing! Perfect for a lunch or dinner side dish.
I used to have a popular recipe on my site called Fish Ball and Cabbage Soup. It was something I made often at home because it was quick, there were always fish balls in the freezer, and everyone in the family liked it. It hit some of the same cravings as Hot Pot, but in a fraction of the time.
I’ve now adapted this recipe to use veggie balls, which are bouncy and chewy like real fish balls, but completely vegan-friendly.
Chinese vs Singaporean Fish Ball Soup
One of Singapore’s most famous comfort foods is Fishball Kway Teow Soup. It’s kind of similar to this recipe, although kway teow soup is made with rice noodles. Singapore Airlines even serves it as one of their most iconic inflight meals. Singapore has another famous version of fish ball noodles called Yu Wan Mee Pok but these usually use wheat noodles.
Singaporean fishball noodle soup is seasoned with chili peppers and preserved vegetables, and loaded with add-on’s like fish cake and bean sprouts. My fish ball noodle soup is more Chinese style, which has a simpler flavour and minimal ingredients. Both are delicious.
I would say the Singaporean version is more of a full meal and the Chinese one is a lighter soup that can be served as a vegan side dish. My parents like this soup to go along with their main course for dinner. Of course, you can throw in more veggie balls, or add some tofu or rice cakes, to bulk it up into a full proper meal.
What You’ll Need
A few important notes on some of the ingredients used in this Vegan Fish Ball Soup:
Glass Noodles: Glass noodles are also known as sweet potato noodles, because they’re made from sweet potato starch. (They taste nothing like sweet potatoes, which might be a disappointment or a relief to you, idk). They’re stretchy, springy, a bit sticky, and have lots of great chew. They happen to be gluten-free too! Use a medium-width noodle for this soup. (Use thin glass noodles for Japchae and wide glass noodles for Buldak Sauce Noodles or Vegan Hot Pot).
Substitution Tip: Don’t worry if you can’t find sweet potato noodles. Any type of thick Asian noodle will work. Udon noodles, wheat noodles, rice noodles (the type used for pho), all work pretty well.
Dashi Granules: Also known as dashi powder or instant dashi. You can sprinkle it right into the soup, just like you would salt. It adds an extra hit of fishy umami flavour. Make sure it says vegan or vegetarian on the label, because many dashi powders contain seafood. Or you can use salt for a more neutral taste.
Veggie “Fish” Balls: Regular fish balls can be found in the frozen aisle of any Chinese grocery store. But veggie balls are more of a specialty ingredient and you might have to source them from a dedicated vegetarian store. Here in Calgary, I get mine from DSI Food. (They sell mushroom and black pepper flavours, both are delicious.)
Help Needed! Please leave a comment noting where you found veggie balls in your city to help future readers.
For a full list of ingredients and quantities, refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: Add Napa cabbage, noodles, veggie balls, and water to a stockpot. Set it on high heat.
Step 2: Cover and bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer until the Napa cabbage is soft.
Step 3: Stir in the white pepper and salt. Ladle the soup into bowls.
Step 4: Add toppings, or serve on the side for everyone to help themselves.
Leftovers & Storage Tips
Fridge: I recommend eating fish ball soup soon after cooking. The noodles will soften and lose some of their chewiness as they continue to sit in the broth. However, any leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.
Freezer: I haven’t tried freezing this recipe yet.
Usually fish balls and veggie balls do get cooked during the manufacturing process. But most brands will tell you to thoroughly heat the fish balls before consumption for food safety. If the package does not state otherwise, then you have to assume you need to heat it through fully before eating.
The most common is a wide rice noodle, however, udon noodles, glass noodles (aka sweet potato noodles), and thick egg noodles are all pretty popular. Any thick noodle with a chewy, springy texture is a perfect candidate for fishball noodles.
Depending on the noodle you use, fish ball noodle soup can be gluten-free. My fish ball noodle soup is gluten-free because I use sweet potato starch noodles which don’t contain any wheat. Most fish balls and veggie balls are also gluten-free, but you should always check the ingredients because occasionally some brands will use wheat flour for binding.
Asian fish cakes and fish balls are both basically fish paste that’s processed into specific shapes, but they’re different. Fish cakes are formed into a square or rectangular shape and fried on all sides to give them a golden exterior. The texture is like a bouncy tofu (similar to Q-tofu). Fish balls, on the other hand, are shaped into round balls, and are not fried. They also have a chewier, bouncier texture. And let’s not even get into Western-style fish cakes, which are a totally different beast, and usually formed into patties and pan-fried rather than boiled.
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No-Fish Ball Noodle Soup
Use Imperial/Metric buttons below to toggle between volume vs weight measurements. I recommend weighing out your ingredients for best results.
- Stockpot or Dutch oven
- 8 oz Napa cabbage, roughly chopped approx. 1/4 head of small Napa cabbage; see Note 1
- 2 oz dry glass noodles see Note 2
- 4 cups water
- 4 oz veggie balls around 8 to 14 balls
- 4 tsp dashi granules see Note 3
- ¼ tsp ground white pepper *can sub with black pepper
- Cilantro, scallions, sesame oil, chili oil to serve
- Add Napa cabbage, noodles, veggie balls, and water to a stockpot on high heat.
- Cover and bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low. Simmer gently until glass noodles are soft, around 10 minutes.
- Stir in the white pepper and salt.
- Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle toppings over each bowl (cilantro, scallions, sesame oil, and chili oil) or serve on the side for each person to help themselves.
- Napa Cabbage: Can be substituted with other Asian leafy greens, such as bok choy or yu choy.
- Glass Noodles: Also known as sweet potato noodles, as they are made from sweet potato starch. They’re stretchy, springy, a bit sticky, and have lots of great chew. I prefer to use a medium-width noodle for this soup. But don’t worry if you can’t find this ingredient, because really, any type of thick Asian noodle will work here. Udon noodles, wheat noodles, rice noodles (the type used for pho), all work pretty well. Just adjust the cooking time accordingly.
- Dashi: You can sprinkle dashi granules (also known as dashi powder or instant dashi) right into the soup, just like you would salt. It adds an extra hit of fishy umami flavour. Make sure to get one labelled vegan or vegetarian, because many dashi powders contain seafood. You can also use salt for a more neutral taste.