How to make: Pearl balls |

How to make: Pearl balls

If you’ve never seen nor heard of pearl balls, they are meat balls rolled in soaked glutinous rice and steamed until the rice grains puff and create a sticky crust. Pearl balls, like most dim sum food, are sized to be eaten in one go. Lift one up with chopsticks, dip lightly in the spicy, sweet, salty sauce, pop into your mouth and chew slowly to enjoy the burst of textures and flavors.

Recipe: Chinese pearl balls


  • 1/4 k. of sticky (glutinous) rice
  • 1/2k. of ground lean pork (or a mixture of ground pork and pounded fresh shrimps)
  • 1 tsp. of finely minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. of finely grated ginger
  • 1/2 c. of finely grated carrot
  • 1/4 c. of finely chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp. of light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. of pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. of sesame seed oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten


  1. Place the rice in a glass or ceramic bowl. Pour in enough water so that there is an inch of water above the surface of the rice. Cover the bowl loosely and allow the rice to soak in the fridge for at least six hours (overnight is ideal).
  2. Chinese pearl balls
  3. In a bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients. Form into balls about two inches in diameter.
  4. Drain the rice in a colander. There is no need to spread the rice on a sheet — that’s the fastest way to dry out the grains. You want them moist so the best way is to keep them in the colander. Just place the colander over a bowl to catch drippings.
  5. Roll each meat ball in the rice, pressing the rice grains onto the entire surface of the balls.
  6. Chinese pearl balls
  7. Place a piece of non-stick paper (wax paper for baking works well) at the bottom of a bamboo rack, making sure that some of the slats are left uncovered to allow the steam to pass through.
  8. Place the balls on the paper-lined steamer racks, about an inch apart to allow space for the rice to expand. You can use as many bamboo racks as needed to cook all the prepared balls. Stack the racks one on top of the other and place over a wok with briskly boiling water. Steam over medium heat for 20-25 minutes. When using several racks, serve the pearl balls from the bottom rack first. Allow the next one to steam for a further five minutes before serving and so on.
  9. Chinese pearl balls
  10. Serve the pearl balls with ginger-garlic-soy sauce: Mix together 1/2 tsp. of finely chopped (or grated) ginger, 1/2 tsp. of finely chopped garlic, 1 tsp. of finely chopped onions, 1/4 c. of light soy sauce, 1 tsp. of rice vinegar and 1-1/2 tsp. of sugar.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

This article was originally published as my food column in Manila Standard Today


  1. tesya mercado says

    Hi Ms. Connie,
    Thank you for this recipe, everytime magluluto ako nito, ubos lagi, hindi na ko gumagamit ng siomai wrapper, ito na lang ang ginagawa ko, mabilis at mas masarap pa!

  2. grace says

    Ma’am Connie, thank u po, lahat na luto ko sa christmas ay galing po sa recipe, ang sarap talaga! Ngayon new year po, lahat galing pa rin sa iyo. Maraming salamat at merry christmas! God bless u po!