Sunday, 18 January 2009

Another meatball - steamed Chinese pearly balls

Earlier this week, I visited a friend of mine who was in the midst of clearing her over-stocked pantry. She offered me a huge bag of glutinous rice - I would say a good 5 kilos worth so I had to think of things to cook with it.

Glutinous rice has a sticky and chewy texture when cooked al dente but becomes glue-like when overcooked. It is a common ingredient in many Asian cuisines featuring in starters, main courses and even desserts. Glutinuos rice is milled to produce a flour that is used as a thickening agent, in baking, and in the making of some traditional Asian sweets like mochi, niangao and tangyuen, all of which I look forward to eating when I return to my parents' home in Malaysia for Chinese New Year.

Anyway, I made these steamed meatballs based loosely on the Pearl meatball recipe that caught my eye in Fuchsia Dunlop's Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook.

Following the quantity of ingredients below will yield many meatballs but it is okay to cook them ahead and re-heat when required.

  • 1 cup glutinous rice soaked overnight
  • 2 large skinned and de-boned chicken thighs (about 200g), minced
  • 100g peeled and de-veined raw prawns, chopped
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1/2 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup reconstituted wood fungus, chopped finely (NB Alternatively, use 4 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked and finely chopped)
  • 1/2 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 2-3 tablespoon cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2-3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • pepper

Combine all the above ingredients except the rice in a medium sized bowl and mix well. To check if the seasoning of the mix is adequate, steam a small amount to taste before shaping the mixture into balls then rolling them in the glutinous rice to coat completely.

The size to shape the meatball is up to you but I prefer to make little ones (a heaped teaspoon of mixture) so I don't end up with meatballs raw in the middle and gummy on the outside. Also, I favour the rice to meat ratio of smaller meatballs. Be sure to arrange meatballs in a single layer on a plate that will fit into your steamer so they will cook evenly and thoroughly. I cooked mine over rapid steam for 3 minutes then turned the heat down to steam gently for a further 17 minutes. This I find seals in the moisture in the meatball and allows the glutinous rice to cook through so there are no crunchy chalky bits.

We are experiencing a respite from the scorching heat so I think it will be a good idea to brew a dashi with a few suspended leaves of choy-sum to accompany the leftover meatballs for lunch.

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