Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy with Gluten Balls (油菜炒面筋)

Baby bok choy stir fried with tender, flavorful gluten balls with plenty of aromatics and a drizzle of soy sauce. Look no further if you’re trying to find an interesting way to spice up your vegetarian meal and add a dose of plant-based protein. {Vegetarian}

Stir fried baby bok choy with gluten balls served with brown rice

Stir fried baby bok choy with gluten balls is one of the earliest recipes I developed back when I had just started blogging in 2013. It is a family recipe and my mom cooks it almost every week. It’s one of my favorite veggie dishes. Believe it or not, I still have the photos I shot of it from five years ago.

You might be asking, why didn’t you post the recipe five years ago? Well, even back when I was living in China, I knew the gluten-free trend was hot in the US. Not only does this dish contain gluten, gluten is actually a main ingredient in it! I thought I may as well just call the dish “stir fried poison”. So, no. After some debating, I decided not to post it.

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A recent turn of events came about in which my husband started experimenting with a plant-based diet. In a heartbeat, all the chicken and meat I’d bought needed to go into the freezer. And I had to start brainstorming vegetarian recipes that contain balanced nutrition.

When we were browsing the shelves of 99 Ranch Market over the weekend, I suddenly thought about my long-forgotten recipe of stir fried gluten balls. So here it is, a five-year old recipe that finally has the chance to show its charm.

Stir fried baby bok choy with gluten balls

What are gluten balls

Fried gluten balls, or mian jin in Chinese (面筋) are balls of deep fried dehydrated wheat gluten. They are spherical and roughly golf ball sized. They have a smooth golden surface and a crispy texture and are very lightweight. In Chinese cooking, fried gluten balls are usually used as an alternative to meat and poultry due to their meaty texture. Fried gluten balls absorb flavor very well and are widely used in stir fried dishes, stews, and hot pots.

I looked at the package I had gotten. The 1.76 oz (50g) package contained 14 gluten balls, which is enough to cook a stir fry for two to three people. It contains 15 g protein, 15 g fat, and 6 g carbs, totaling 220 calories for the whole package. I thought the nutritional data looked pretty alright.

How to prepare gluten balls for stir frying

  • For stews and braised dishes, you can use them immediately without any prep. But to use gluten balls in stir fried dishes, you need to soak the balls in water first to soften them.
  • To prepare them, use a paring knife to poke a slit into each ball about halfway through.
  • Place gluten balls in a large bowl and add water to cover. Use a plate or a lid to cover the bowl, so the gluten balls stay under water. Soak for about 30 minutes, until all the balls turn soft. I often flip them and push them further into the water after 10 to 15 minutes or so. So they will soak evenly. Do not soak for too long.
  • Gently squeeze the extra water from each ball and discard the water.

How to prepare fried gluten balls for stir fry

Note on preparing baby bok choy

I noticed that the size of baby bok choy can vary a LOT in the US. Depending on the type you get, you might need to cut them very differently.

In this recipe I used very small heads of bok choy that I found in our Asian market. Most of them were about the size of my palm. In this case, I tore the outer leaves off, cut off the tough ends, and left the rest intact. (See picture below)

If your baby bok choy heads are bigger (like size of your hand), then you might consider halving or quartering the inside portion after tearing the large outer leaves off.

If you happen to get giant baby bok choy, which I did once, you might need to cut the outer leaves into bite-size pieces before cooking.

In short, you want to keep all the pieces of a similar size and thickness, so they cook evenly.

How to prepare baby bok choy

An afterthought

If you’re trying to find an interesting way to cook vegetables, definitely give the fried gluten balls a try next time you’re at the Asian market. I truly enjoy them, even more than deep fried tofu, because of their tender texture and rich flavor.

I hope you enjoy!

Stir fried baby bok choy with gluten balls step by step photos

More vegetarian stir fry recipes

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy with Gluten Balls (油菜炒面筋)

Baby bok choy stir fried with tender, flavorful gluten balls with plenty of aromatics and a drizzle of soy sauce. Look no further if you’re trying to find an interesting way to spice up your vegetarian meal and add a dose of plant-based protein. {Vegetarian}
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Side
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 2 to 3 servings
Calories: 139kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu

Ingredients

  • 1 bag (1.76 oz / 50 g) fried gluten balls , deep fried
  • 1 lbs (450 g) baby bok choy
  • 2 green onions , chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (vegetable oil)
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Instructions

  • Use a small paring knife to poke a slit in every gluten ball. Add the gluten balls into a big bowl and water to cover. Place a lid or a plate on top of the gluten balls, to keep them under the water. Soak until the gluten balls turn soft, without tough spots, 30 minutes or so.
  • Rinse bok choy. Tear apart the large leaves and remove tough ends. If you’re using large heads of baby bok, halve or quarter the heads into bite size pieces. Wash thoroughly to remove the dust between the leaves and drain in a colander.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet (or a wok) over medium high heat (highest heat on an electric stove) until hot. Add the green onion and garlic and stir a few times until fragrant. Add the gluten balls. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
  • Add the baby bok choy, continuously stirring for 1 to 2 minutes, until the bok choy is half cooked.
  • Add sugar and swirl in light soy sauce. Immediately stir a few times to mix the sauce well.
  • Cover and reduce heat to medium-low (medium on an electric stove). Cook for 30 seconds. Uncover and stir again. Carefully try a piece of the baby bok choy, to test whether it’s cooked to your liking. Stir and cook for another 20 to 30 seconds if needed. The bok choy should be cooked through and slightly caramelized on the edges, without turning too soft. Once done, immediately transfer everything to a plate.
  • Serve hot over rice.

Nutrition

Serving: 3g | Calories: 139kcal | Carbohydrates: 7.4g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 10.7g | Saturated Fat: 1.9g | Sodium: 706mg | Potassium: 489mg | Fiber: 2.2g | Sugar: 3.7g | Calcium: 18% | Iron: 12%
Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy with Gluten Balls - Very easy to make and bursting with flavor, it’s a great choice if you’re trying to find an interesting way to spice up your vegetarian meal and add a dose of plant-based protein. #chinese #recipes #vegan #stirfry

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One thought on “Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy with Gluten Balls (油菜炒面筋)

  1. Bill Zigrang

    Maggie,
    Your link to “latest videos” doesn’t show up in FireFox. Please see if your web designer can fix this.
    Bill Zigrang (Business partner from Shanghai by way of Nashville)

    Reply