If you’ve never seen nor heard of pearl balls, they are meat balls rolled in soaked sticky (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.
Making pearl balls start by soaking glutinous (sticky) rice in water. The minimum is six hours but I like doing it overnight in the fridge.
Then, you make meat balls — ground pork seasoned with salt, pepper, soy sauce, sesame seed oil. Add garlic and ginger as well.
Roll each meat ball in the drained rice.
And arrange them in the steamer basket.
Less than half an hour later, the rice grains are puffed and cooked through. Time to enjoy the pearl balls with dipping sauce.
Not hard at all, right? Ready to make them? Here’s the recipe.
- 1/4 kilogram glutinous (sticky) rice
- 1/2 kilogram ground pork (or a mixture of ground pork and pounded fresh shrimps)
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
- 1/2 cup finely grated carrot
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 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).
- In a bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients. Form into balls about two inches in diameter.
- 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.
- Roll each meat ball in the rice, pressing the rice grains onto the entire surface of the balls.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve the pearl balls with ginger-garlic-soy sauce.
For the 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.