Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pearl Meatballs

I've stumbled upon a show on the Cooking Channel called 'Easy Chinese' featuring Ching-He Huang and now I'm a fan!  Ching is Taiwanese but has an adorable British accent from her upbringing.  She travels throughout the US exploring Chinese eats and also cooks up food with local ingredients.  For those unfamiliar with Chinese cooking, she definitely makes it look easy and approachable.  Try and catch 'Easy Chinese' on the Cooking Channel! But if you can't, check out her recipes online.

On one episode she cooked up 'Pearl Balls' which are essentially steamed pork meatballs rolled in sticky rice.  Sounds delicious!  I don't often cook Chinese food using a recipe (afterall, Dad always taught me how to cook with "a little of this" and "just enough of that" and his recipes are killer!), but I was really eager to test out Ching's version.  

Pearl Meatballs, using Ching-He Huang's recipe on Cooking Channel TV
I followed her recipe almost exactly and I was so pleased with how it came out!  I made a few very minor substitutions which I've noted below.  Check out Ching's recipe, reposted below courtesy of Cooking Channel TV, and follow along with my pictures.  This one's a keeper, and it's pretty easy!  


12 oz. Ground Pork (or a boneless, skinless piece of pork belly)
2" piece of fresh Ginger, peeled
1 Shallot
1/2 cube vegetable bouillon (I substituted with chicken bouillon as I had it on hand)
1 tsp Cornstarch, plus more for rolling
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 tsp Shaoshing rice wine
Sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1 large egg yolk, beaten
1 scallion, chopped fine (my addition, not in Ching's recipe)
1/2 cup glutinous white rice (sticky rice!), soaked overnight in cold water and drained

Optional dipping sauce: Black rice vinegar, chili oil, or soy sauce


The thing with this recipe is you need to plan ahead.  The night before you plan on making the meatballs, rinse the sticky rice and soak it overnight in cold water.  Drain it the next day when you are ready to make the meatballs.

Ching favors using pork belly, but you can also use ground pork.  I opted for ground pork to keep the fat content down.  Working on a large cutting board, place the ground pork in the middle and chop roughly to loosen the meat.  Spread it out in a thin layer on the board.

Grate the ginger, shallot and bouillon over the meat using a fine grater.

Sprinkle on the cornstarch, Chinese Five Spice powder, Shaoshing rice wine, salt, pepper, egg yolk and scallion.

Pearl Meatballs mixture
Mix well until combined using a your knife again.

Put some cornstarch in a shallow bowl.  Roll the pork mixture into a ping pong ball-size meatball.  Then roll it in the cornstarch to lightly coat.  Shake off any excess and hold the meatballs on a plate.

Roll the ball in cornstarch

Let the balls rest on a plate
Using wet hands, put some of the soaked rice in your palm and roll the meatball into the rice, pressing the grains gently along the surface of the pork ball.  Continue rolling until the meatballs are all coated with the rice.

Ching's recipe calls for you to use a bamboo steamer, but she also makes a note that you can use a vegetable steamer basket in a large pot.  Since I don't have a bamboo steamer, I went with the vegetable basket method described below.

Using a paper towel, wipe vegetable oil over the surface of the vegetable steamer basket to prevent the rice from sticking to the basket when cooking.  Or, you can lay some pieces of Nappa cabbage on the steamer basket and place the meatballs on top.  

Meatballs rolled in sticky rice and ready to be steamed!
Fill a large pot with an inch of water, or low enough so the water level stays below the bottom of the vegetable steamer.  Place the pearl balls into the steamer basket and steam for 20 to 25 minutes, until the meatballs are set and cooked through.

All done! Pearl Meatballs
I served the Pearl Meatballs right out of the steamer basket with dipping sauce on the side and a dish of tofu, edamame, scallions and egg.  Dinner was delicious and it was a hit!  

Side dish of tofu, edamame and scallion and egg
Have you ever had Pearl Meatballs before? It was a first for me.  Let me know if you give this recipe a try!

Happy cooking,

Piggy KL

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