Chinese Pearl Balls

Meaty and juicy with sticky rice coating, these Chinese Pearl Balls are super yummy and bursting with flavor. They’re the perfect addition to a Chinese New Year celebration or any holiday menu.

Filipino New Year celebrations are steeped in tradition and superstitions. I remember being a young child in tow as my mother frantically scoured grocery stores a day before New Year, in search of twelve kinds of round fruits to serve as a centerpiece for our festivities.

What are Chinese Pearl Balls

Chinese Pearl Balls are traditionally served on special occasions or holidays such as Lunar New Year to symbolize togetherness and reunion. The name comes from the fact they look like giant pearls, as the grains of rice turn pearly in color when cooked.

These Asian porcupine meatballs are made with minced pork with shitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, green onions, and seasonings. The mixture is shaped into small balls, rolled in glutinous rice, and steamed to meaty perfection.

Ingredient substitutions

  • Glutinous Rice– also known as sticky rice, sweet rice, or malagkit. You can also use short-grain or sushi rice.
  • Shiitake Mushrooms-fresh or dried. Adds an umami flavor and meaty texture. If unavailable, cremini, portabello, or oyster mushrooms are also great options.
  • Water chestnuts– adds crunch. Although not traditional, you can subsititute singkamas or Mexican turnip if water chestnuts are not available.
  • Chinese cooking wine– also known as Shaoxing wine. In a pinch, you can substitute dry sherry, mirin, or cooking sake.

Helpful Tips

  • Soak the glutinous rice in water for at least 6 hours or overnight to ensure quick and even cooking.
  • If meat mixture is too soft to shape or roll in rice, freeze for about 10 to 15 minutes to firm up.
  • Line the steamer to keep the meatballs from sticking and the rice coating from falling through the cracks. You can use banana leaves for extra aroma, cabbage leaves, or parchment paper.

To serve and store

  • These Asian porcupine meatballs are a tasty addition to any special occasion banquet. Serve with soy sauce-chili dipping sauce for a filling appetizer, midday snack, or brunch.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

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