Pearl Meatballs (珍珠丸子 Zhen Zhu Wan Zi)
January 23, 2021
My maternal grandmother used to make pearl meatballs during major holidays. It’s a must-have for our family’s annual Chinese New Year Eve banquet.
Why are they called pearl meatballs? Because the rice grains covering the meatballs look like tiny white pearls after being steamed. These pearl meatballs not only look adorable with their glistening hue, but also taste great with their juicy and light texture.
I was able to recover this recipe from a long-time family friend. It’s surprisingly easy. Apart from the fact that you will need to immerse the glutinous rice in water for at least 2 hours before steaming, the rest doesn’t take that long at all. If you don’t have glutinous rice handy, no worries. I’ve used white rice instead to make pearl meatballs and they look and taste equally great!
Preparation Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
Servings: makes 10-15 pearl meatballs
- 1 lb (~450g) ground pork1
- 1/2 cup glutenous rice2
- 1 1-inch long piece of ginger
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 egg (egg white only)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Immerse the glutinous rice in water for at least 2 hours.
- Peel and mince the ginger.
- In a mixing bowl, add the 1 lb (~450g) of ground pork, minced ginger, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon of table salt), 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine, 1 teaspoon of corn starch, and 1 tablespoon of water, mixing either clockwise or counterclockwise (but only in one direction).
- The ground pork mix should be relatively dry at this point. Add the egg white and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to the mix and continue mixing until thoroughly incorporated. There will be large chunks at first due to the egg white. The large chunks will disappear shortly after mixing.
- Drain the glutinous rice. Use a spoon and two hands to help shape the ground pork mixture into small round meatballs. Then roll each meatball in the glutinous rice bowl so the meatball is covered in rice. When done, put all the meatballs on a large plate, leaving some space in between each meatball.
- Heat some water in a steamer or a large pot with a steamer rack under medium-high heat. When the water boils, add the plate to the steamer. Cover and steam for 20 minutes. When the 20 minutes are up, carefully transfer the plate out of the steamer. Enjoy!
- When choosing ground pork for making meatballs, it’s best to choose the types with some fat. Pork shoulder would be a good pick.
- As I mentioned in the introduction, if you don’t have glutinous rice, you can use white rice instead.