Place the peeled taro in a pan, add enough water to cover, bring to the boil, cover and simmer until very tender. How tender? A fork or knife inserted at the thickest part of the largest piece should go through easily and without resistance.
Mash the boiled taro. Add the shortening, starch solution, sugar, salt, pepper, sesame seed oil and baking soda to mashed taro and mix well.
Transfer the taro to a flat work surface and knead until pliable, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Place the kneaded taro in a bowl, cover with a damp towel to prevent it from drying, and let rest while you make the filling.
To the ground pork, add 1 tbsp. of cornstarch and 1 tbsp. of water. Mix well.
Heat 2 tbsps. of cooking oil in a work, add the pork and cook, stirring, until it starts to brown. Season with salt, pepper and about 1 tsp. of sugar. Add the peas and chopped chili, continue cooking for another minute, pour in the sesame seed oil then turn off the heat. Transfer the pork and peas mixture to a shallow bowl to allow to cool a bit.
Place about 2 tbsps. of the taro mixture on the palm of your hand. Flatten and spread. Curve your hand to create a “bowl”. Spoon 1 tbsp. of the pork filling at the center of the taro mixture.
Gather the edges of the taro mixture and close to seal the pork filling.
You now have one taro ball with pork and peas filling.
Repeat until all the taro mixture has been used up.
Sprinkle the taro balls with cornstarch then start heating the cooking oil for deep frying.
This is the stage where the taro balls become taro puffs. As the taro balls come in contact with the hot oil, the surface puffs as it turns crisp. Fry the taro balls over high heat until nicely browned. Drain on paper towels.
If you will look closely at the deep-fried taro balls, the surface of the taro balls is no longer smooth. Rather, there is a fine lace-like pattern all over. If you prefer a more pronounced lace-like pattern, make the taro mixture less stiff by adding more water and shortening.
A well made taro puff does not get squished when pierced with a fork. It shouldn’t be soggy either.