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.

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?

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.

They’re fun and tasty appetizers that are sure to be a hit with the crowd. Perfect for sharing and freezable, too!

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.

    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.
    • To reheat, steam the meatballs for about 8 to 10 minutes or until completely heated through. If using a microwave, arrange in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate, cover with a damp paper towel, and heat at 1 to 2-minutes intervals until heated through.


      • 1 cup glutinous rice
      • 2 pieces dried shitake mushrooms
      • 1 pound ground pork
      • 1/4 cup water chestnuts, finely chopped
      • 1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and mince
      • 2 green onions, chopped
      • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
      • 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
      • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
      • 1 egg, beaten
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

      Dipping Sauce

      • soy sauce to taste
      • chili sauce to taste


        • Steamer
        • parchment paper


          • 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.
          • In a small bowl with warm water, soak shitake mushrooms until softened. Using hands, squeeze liquid and then mince.
          • In a bowl, combine ground pork, water chestnuts, mushrooms, ginger, green onions, garlic, soy sauce, wine, sesame oil, egg, salt, and pepper. 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 the meat.
        • Line a steamer with banana leaves Chinese cabbage leaves, or parchment paper. Arrange rice-coated meatballs in a single layer on steamer at about 1/2 inch apart.
        • Steam for about 20 to 30 minutes or until rice and meat are cooked through. Serve with dipping sauce.


        • Soak the glutinous rice in water for at least 6 hours or overnight to ensure quick and even cooking.
        • If the 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.

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