Chinese Steamed Pearl Balls
Present steamed pearl balls with a quick stir-fried green vegetable or a salad for a nice lunch. Ground chicken thigh or turkey can be substituted for the pork. In Cantonese, this dumpling is called jun jiu kao.
Makes about 24 balls, serving 6 to 8 as a snack
¾ cup sticky (sweet) rice, short-grain or long-grain variety
½ teaspoon plus generous ¼ teaspoon salt
3/4 pound ground pork, fattier kind preferred
11/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoons finely diced water chestnut, jicama, or carrot
2 scallions (white and green parts), minced
1 pinch of white pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon light (regular) soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
1 large egg
Light (regular) soy sauce
Chile Garlic Sauce, store bought or homemade (recipe is on the Viet World Kitchen site)
1. Put the rice in a bowl and add water to cover by 1 inch. Let stand for at least 2 hours (or even overnight) at room temperature.
2. Drain the rice in a mesh strainer, shaking the strainer to expel excess water. Let aside to dry while you prepare the pork mixture. Drier grains adhere to the meat mixture better.
3. Combine the pork, ginger, water chestnut, and scallion in a bowl. Stir and mash with a fork to combine well.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the generous 1/2 teaspoon salt, white pepper, sugar, cornstarch, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, and canola oil. Add the egg and beat to combine well. Pour over the meat mixture and stir vigorously to create soft, sticky mass. There should be about 13/4 cups.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use two teaspoons to scoop up a generous tablespoon of the pork, then pass the pork back and forth between the spoons to form a neat ball about 1 inch in diameter. Deposit it on the prepared baking sheet before repeating. You should have about 24 balls total. Freeze the baking sheet for 10 minutes to firm up the meatballs.
6. Meanwhile, line steamer trays with parchment paper and set aside. Get the water boiling for steaming and lower the heat to keep it hot and ready.
7. For good measure, shake the strainer again to rid excess water. If the rice glistens with moisture, blot it with paper towels. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Put about 1/3 of the rice on a plate.
8. Use your hands to pick up one of the balls of pork, roll it between your hands to smooth any rough edges, then roll it in the rice. Aim to coat the surface with a single layer of rice. Place on the prepared steamer tray. Repeat with the remaining balls, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Overflow balls can be put on parchment paper lined baking sheets.
9. Steam the dumplings over boiling water for about 20 minutes, until the rice is translucent and the pork is done. Detach the trays and place each on a platter. As the pearl balls cool, they take on a pink cast from the pork below the rice.
Serve immediately with soy sauce and hot chile garlic sauce. Refrigerate leftover dumplings, return them to room temperature, and steam them for about 5 minutes to reheat.
One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. ~Luciano Pavarotti