Chinese Pearl Balls

We, Filipinos, are a superstitious lot. 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 centerpiece for our festivities. I am sure you share my media noche memories of pancit guisado for long life or BBQ pork on a stick for prosperity. And, of course, dishes made with glutinous rice such as bringhe or biko to make good fortune “stick” throughout the coming year. How about banging on pots and pans and blowing on torotots? Or jumping up and down like crazy at the strike of midnight in polka dot undies?

Chinese pearl balls are traditionally served on Chinese New Year to symbolize reunion and togetherness. Grains such as rice signify abundance while pork is considered a symbol for progress. But whether lucky or not, these delicious dimsum will make a delicious addition to your New Year’s feast. Similar to siomai, they use a filling of ground pork, water chestnuts, green onions, mushrooms and seasonings but in place of wrappers made of eggs and flour, the shaped pork mixture are coated with pre-soaked glutinous rice and then steamed until the grains turn into  a pearl-white rice coating. Try these porcupine meatballs, they are super easy, super yummy and bursting with flavor and texture in every bite. Enjoy!

Chinese Pearl Balls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Yield: 2 Dozens
  • 1 cup glutinous rice
  • 2 pieces dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • ¼ cup water chestnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 green onions, ends trimmed and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
Dipping Sauce
    • soy sauce to taste
    • chili sauce to taste
  1. In a bowl, combine glutinous rice and enough water to cover. Soak for at at least 6 hours or overnight for best results. In a colander, drain well and transfer into a wide plate.
  2. In a small bowl with warm water, soak shitake mushrooms until softened. Using hands, squeeze liquid and then mince.
  3. In a bowl, combine ground pork, water chestnuts, mushrooms, ginger, green onions, garlic, soy sauce, wine, sesame oil, egg, salt and pepper. Gently stir to combine. Form meat mixture into balls of about 1-inch diameter. Gently roll each ball in rice to fully coat, pressing rice onto meat.
  4. Line a steamer with wax paper or Chinese cabbage leaves. Arrange rice-coated meatballs in a single layer on steamer at about ½ inch apart. Steam for about 20 to 30 minutes or until rice and meat are cooked through. Serve with dipping sauce.
For moist meatballs, use ground pork with about higher percent of fat. If meat mixture is too soft to shape or roll in rice, freeze for about 10 to 15 minutes to firm up.


Leave a Reply