Pearl Balls

Among the hundreds of appetising dishes I see on blogs and plan to prepare one day, some are so appealing, I simply cannot stop thinking about them. Such was the case of Pearl Balls I saw a couple of weeks ago at Jeno’s blog (Weeknite Meals). Reading the recipe and looking at the lovely photos I instantly knew it was my kind of dish.

Pearl Balls are made of ground, seasoned pork, coated in sticky rice and, as Jeno mentioned, they are part of the dishes traditionally served during the Chinese New Year family gatherings. They are called “pearl” because the sticky (glutinous/sweet) rice they are coated in changes its milky colour to pearly during the steaming process. As Jeno had promised these pork balls proved not only delicious, but also very quick and easy to prepare. However, since the glutinous rice needs to be soaked for several hours, they have to be planned ahead (I soaked it overnight). Chopped water chestnuts give a pleasant slight crunch, but, as Jeno says, they can easily be omitted because they don’t change the taste a lot. Pearl Balls can be served as a main course but also as snacks. They are excellent dipped in soy sauce seasoned with chili paste or oil. I have changed the recipe slightly, adding grated ginger which I love combined with pork. Click here to see Jeno’s original recipe and her beautiful photos. (You can also see the Pearl Balls as guest post on Nami’s Just One Cookbook blog).Β Happy New Year, Jeno, and thank you for this wonderful recipe!

Happy Chinese New Year to everyone who celebrates it!

TIP: If you don’t want to use fat pork, add some silken tofu to make sure the balls are not dry

Preparation: 30 minutes + several hours (or overnight) rice soaking time

Ingredients (about 30 balls):

about 500 g ground pork (a bit fatty or 400 g lean pork+100 g silken tofu)

2 tablespoons chopped green onionΒ 

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

2 tablespoons soy sauce (or more if using low-sodium soy sauce)

5 water chestnuts peeled and chopped very finely (I used canned chestnuts)

Β 1 egg

salt, pepper

200 g sticky/glutinous/sweet rice soaked for several hours or overnight

Combine all the ingredients apart from the rice.

Drain the rice and put it into a wide bowl.

Form meat balls (apricot size) and roll them in the rice.

Steam for about 20 minutes and serve with any sauce of your choice.

(They are also very good microwaved).




39 Replies to “Pearl Balls”

  1. You are fast Sissi! I actually had these when I was in Taiwan and I immediately told Cindy (Jeno) that I was having them (it was before her post was published). I remember the excitement because I wanted to eat these immediately after I saw her photos. I bet her mom’s pearl balls are more delicious than the one I had, but like pork dumplings, I could not stop eating these! Yours look absolutely gorgeous. Tofu is a great addition! Now it’s my turn to crave.

    1. Thank you for the compliment, Nami. Actually I thought I was very slow. I kept thinking about them every day and it felt like eternity! For me it was double craving because they were on both, yours and Jeno’s blogs! (Have I told you they were my favourite guest post on your blog?) I have been adding silken tofu for the moisture otherwise obtained by the fat. I also do it in dumplings and anything where the ground meat dries easily. You must make them! They are particularly easy!

    1. Thank you so much. It was my first experiment with water chestnuts and I must say they have a very interesting, original texture.

      1. We also use the canned water chestnuts which are already peeled because it is really convenient as the fresh ones can be difficult to find. We normally add these diced chestnuts to mince pork, chinese mushrooms, ginger and shallots as a paste for making Asian dumplings and wantons.

        1. I still have the rest of the can in the fridge, so thank you for the advice. I will make maybe dumplings with them.

  2. Ok, first off, GORgeous dish and matching sticks girl!! πŸ˜‰ Love. Your pearl balls (great name), look fantastic – love the idea of the crunchy chestnuts and the ginger is a delightful addition. And what have you sprinkled on top? Are those poppy seeds? Very attractive. What a fabulous, simple, delicious meal Sissi. I must try this one (of course, I say that about all of your tempting recipes!) :).

    1. Thank you, Kelly, for so many compliments! I’m blushing πŸ™‚
      I have sprinkled some black sesame seeds on top. I don’t know exactly why… I often see Japanese bentos with rice sprinkled with black sesame, so I suppose this is how I had this idea. This recipe is really very easy and steaming is quite healthy I think, so I hope you try it one day.

  3. This is interesting. When I first started reading food blogs one of the first recipes I made note of was a Chinese dish similar to this one. Meat is coated is toasted course ground rice and steamed. I never tried it and eventually decided to delete this recipe. And I see something similar today. Now I want to try this.

    1. Mr. Three-Cookies, I have never heard about balls coated in ground rice. It sounds very intriguing. These balls were really easy to make and even microwaved they tasted good the following day. I hope you try them.

  4. Really? This is a traditional Chinese New Year dish? Hmm, I’ve never had this before. Perhaps this one is traditional for the China Chinese whereas I’m actually a “bastardized” chinese as most Nyonya Chinese are. Looks very interesting. Kind of like a sushi roll.

    1. Thank you, Ping. It’s maybe like a steamed, ball-shaped warm sushi roll. I suppose Chinese customs and dishes are different in every country or maybe even region. I have only recently learnt (thanks to Mr. Three-Cookies) what Nyonya means πŸ˜‰ Nyonya food sounds fantastic!

  5. Happy Chinese New Year Sissi! Thank you so much for making this dish and for the mention, I feel sooo honored! I’ve never thought about adding silken tofu to ground pork to retain the moisture, it sure makes a lot of sense! Today is January 1st on the Lunar Calendar, though there’s not much festivities going on at Houston, though I assume this weekend will be a different story. I probably will fry dumpling for tonight’s dinner, though your pearl balls look so much more appetizing!

    1. Thank you, Jeno, for kind words and the compliment. I am glad you approve of my copy πŸ˜‰ Have a lovely time tonight and Happy New Year once more!

  6. HI Sissi, Happy Chinese New Year to you!! You are so amazing making these beautiful and delicious Pearl Balls. They are quite addicting but the good thing is that they are so easy to make. I typically prefer water chestnut for the better texture and sweeter flavor. And I like your addition of the ginger because they add good flavor to the meat balls inside. Great dish! =)

  7. Heh, I gotta say I was expecting a sweet dish when I read the post title – not sure why. I was really surprised when I started reading “pork” and so forth πŸ˜€

    “Chopped water chestnuts give a pleasant slight crunch”

    Ah – you could swap these out for some stir-fried topinambour πŸ˜€ Cheaper alternative!

    These look great Sissi – I love little dumpling/ball/parcel type things to scoff – I bet they’d be fantastic with a little sriracha to dip in too! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Charles, at first when I saw Jeno’s recipe and read it was a Chinese New Year dish I also thought it was sweet. Luckily not because I am not very fond of sweet rice dishes… I cannot say I hate them, but I would always prefer the rice with soy sauce and chili instead of sugar and cinnamon.
      Thanks for the topinambour advice! (I have forgotten them yesterday… Hopefully I will remember on my next visit to the organic shop). Thanks for the compliment. They were so easy and as you say, great with some hot sauce (I mixed hot Japanese bean paste with soy sauce).

  8. Hi, I found your blog through Charles tagging you. What a great recipe. I love Chinese food but haven’t heard of these before. They look amazing and delicious. Happy CNY !

  9. Love the sound of these, just the name alone is beautiful! Funnily, ive never had these, certainly not during Chinese new year, hmm, maybe it’s more of a regional sort of dish. I do want to try it though, love dim sum ish things like these. Nice tip on the fatty pork, it is one f the essentials to juicy bouncy meatballs that you get in chinese dumplings if all sorts! And stirring vigoroudly and slapping it down weirdly does help also, i realused, from making my cabbage dumplings. Haha.

    1. Thank you so much, Shu Han. I have read also on internet that these balls are traditionally served for New Year, so it must be probably a regional tradition, not only Jeno’s family’s πŸ˜‰ I love fatty pork, but sometimes when I exaggerate with rich meals I try substituting the fat with silken tofu. Thanks for the stirring and slapping tip πŸ˜‰

  10. These are adorable! They look so tasty! And I love your addition of ginger. I’m thinking I’ve seen these before, but never knew how they were made. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I had these “pearls” long long time ago…my mom used to make this back in Brazil πŸ™‚
    Like the combination of the meat inside with the sticky rice on the outside. Beautiful Sissi!
    Hope you are having a wonderful week πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you, Juliana. I am happy it brought back your mum’s cooking memories and hope you are having a lovely week too.

  12. Hi Sissy!
    what a great idea! Fitting name too, Pearl balls. I didnt know that is existed and I am glad u introduced it (must have missed the post on namis blog). Do they use only pork meat or r there other options? Thats coming to my to do list for the future. thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much, Helene. The Chinese love pork (just like me πŸ˜‰ ) , so they probably do it only with pork, but I you can try it with any meat you prefer.

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