Last week I decided I wanted pearl meatballs, specifically the ones my mom makes. Unfortunately my mom lives 850 miles away so the only way to satisfy my craving was to prepare them myself. If you're unfamiliar with pearl meatballs, they are steamed pork meatballs which were rolled in glutinous (aka sweet aka sticky) rice. The rice becomes translucent after it's cooked so the meatball appears to be studded in pearls. I didn't have short grain glutinous rice on hand so my my meatballs lack the pearl studded look. My favorite part is the bottom of the meatball where the rice takes on the meaty juices from the pork. This recipe requires a bit of prep time as the glutinous rice must be soaked for at least 2 hours before use. If I make this on a week night, I'll soak the rice before I leave for work in the morning.
Pearl Meatballs (~40 meatballs at 1 - 1-1/2")
2 cups of glutinous rice (preferably short grain, sometimes labeled as "sushi rice") soaked in water for 2 hours
1-1/2 lb ground pork
3 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp rice wine
2 tsp sesame oil
2 sprigs of green onion, finely chopped
4 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped (I've used both fresh and dried)
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 medium eggs
1-2 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste
~ 1.5 cups water
1) Soak rice for 2 hours. If using dried shiitakes, rehydrate with water (at least 45 minutes). After mushrooms are rehydrated, remove stems (I save these for soups) and finely chop.
2) Mix cornstarch with ~1/4 cup of cold water, soy sauce, rice wine, and eggs. Add remaining ingredients and additional cup of water and mix well. Allow mixture to rest 30 minutes. The mixture should feel moist but firm enough to form balls. Note: After making my mixture, I always heat up a frying pan and cook 1/2 - 1 tsp of the meat mixture for a taste test. This way I can adjust the flavor to my liking before rolling out and steaming all my meatballs.
4) Roll meat mixture into 1 - 1-1/2 inch balls. Roll the meat balls on the rice plate to coat.