Meaty and juicy with sticky rice coating, these Chinese Pearl Balls are super yummy and bursting with flavor. They’re the perfect addition to a Chinese New Year celebration or any holiday menu.
We, Filipinos, are a superstitious lot. I remember being a young child in tow as my mother frantically scoured grocery stores a day before New Year, in search of twelve kinds of round fruits to serve as a centerpiece for our festivities.
I am sure you share my Media Noche memories of pancit guisado for long life or BBQ pork on a stick for prosperity. And, of course, dishes made with glutinous rice such as bringhe or biko to make good fortune “stick” throughout the coming year.
How about banging on pots and pans and blowing on torotots? Or jumping up and down like crazy at the strike of midnight in polka dot undies?
What are Chinese Pearl Balls?
Chinese Pearl Balls are delicate finger foods traditionally served on Chinese New Year to symbolize togetherness and reunion. The name of this dish comes from the fact they look like giant pearls, as the grains of rice turn pearly in color when cooked.
These porcupine meatballs are basically made with pork meatball covered in sticky rice. The filling consists of ground pork, shitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, green onions and seasonings which are turned into small balls and then rolled in glutinous rice. These fun and tasty appetizers are similar to siomai when it come to the stuffing, the difference between them are how they are wrapped.
Glutinous Rice also known as sticky rice or sweet rice and are typically grown in Asian countries. It has a white grain that turns shiny, translucent and sticky when cooked.
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms are commonly used in Chinese or other Asian cuisines. It adds an intense umami and smoky flavor and fragrance to any dish.
Ground Pork or minced pork is usually made from pork shoulder or also known as the Boston butt or pork butt. You may substitute it with ground chicken, if preferred.
Water Chestnuts are aquatic tuber vegetables grown in some parts of Asia, Africa and Australia. It resembles to an actual chestnut in color and shape, however it is not an actual nut.
Ginger is hot and fragrant with a bamboo-like appearance. It is widely used as a spice, medicine and even as a delicacy.
Green Onions also known as scallions are harvested young onions with bright green leaves and underdeveloped bulbs.
Garlic is virtually used in the cuisines all over the world. It has a unique and intense flavor and aroma that makes it a popular flavoring agent.
Soy Sauce is a dark brown liquid condiment that is considered to have a strong umami flavor.
Chinese cooking wine also known as Shaoxing Wine is a rice wine usually used in Chinese cuisines. It has a harsh alcoholic flavor and is salty. In a pinch, you could substitute it with dry sherry, mirin or cooking sake.
Sesame oil is derived from sesame seeds. It has a nutty, earthy flavor and used to enhance flavors in many dishes.
Egg is used as a binder for the meat.
Soak the glutinous rice in water for an hour to ensure the grains cook and absorb moisture evenly.
Stir the meat mixture stirring in just one circular direction until it becomes sticky and fluffy.
You can add chopped shrimp or ground fish fillet to the meat mixture for extra flavor.
It is important to the line steamer to prevent the Chinese Pearl Balls from sticking.
To Serve and store
Serve the Chinese Pearl Balls warm with soy sauce-chili dipping sauce or sweet-chili sauce.
Store leftover meatballs in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
To reheat, steam the meatballs again. If using a microwave, place the pearl balls in a bowl and add a few drops of water. Cover the bowl with a plate, this will prevent the meatballs from drying out.
- 1 cup glutinous rice
- 2 pieces dried shitake mushrooms
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1/4 cup water chestnuts finely chopped
- 1 thumb-size ginger peeled and minced
- 2 green onions ends trimmed and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 egg beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- soy sauce to taste
- chili sauce to taste
- In a bowl, combine glutinous rice and enough water to cover. Soak for at at least 6 hours or overnight for best results. In a colander, drain well and transfer into a wide plate.
- In a small bowl with warm water, soak shitake mushrooms until softened. Using hands, squeeze liquid and then mince.
- In a bowl, combine ground pork, water chestnuts, mushrooms, ginger, green onions, garlic, soy sauce, wine, sesame oil, egg, salt and pepper. Gently stir to combine. Form meat mixture into balls of about 1-inch diameter. Gently roll each ball in rice to fully coat, pressing rice onto meat.
- Line a steamer with wax paper or Chinese cabbage leaves. Arrange rice-coated meatballs in a single layer on steamer at about 1/2 inch apart. Steam for about 20 to 30 minutes or until rice and meat are cooked through. Serve with dipping sauce.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”