Rice Pearl Balls

Rice Pear Balls

Rice pearl balls (珍珠丸子, zhen zhu wanzi) are one of my favorite hometown dishes. They have won almost every friend’s heart, whether Chinese or non-Chinese, especially kids. Every time this dish can be gone very quickly. I strongly recommend this dish to moms. Firstly it is nutritious and tasty, including  staple food, meat and vegetables; secondly it’s very easy for kids to use fingers to pick up.

They are pork meatballs covered in glutinous rice. The cooked glutinous rice looks translucent, like pearls. The meat balls are tender and tasty, scented with sesame oil and fresh lotus roots or water chestnuts. Meanwhile, the glutinous rice absorbs meatballs’ anima.

I am from Hubei. In Hubei cuisine, the main side ingredients are usually lotus roots or water chestnuts, both with snow-white colors, crunchy and light sweet texture. They also contain starch themselves.

Pork and lotus root


Water chestnuts

This dish does not only belong to Hubei but also Hunan and the middle and lower reaches of Changjiang River. The side ingredients differ based on local fresh produce, such as shrimp, shiitake mushroom, carrots, bamboo shoots, black fungus, and wild rice stems. One thing is to note that all these do not contain starch. If you use any of them, starch is needed. Otherwise, the meatballs will fall apart easily.

A meatball is done
Meatballs on the lotus leaf


  •  Half a pound glutinous rice, pre-soaked for at least half a hour
  • Half a pound organic pork, 30% fat and 70% lean, minced
  • Half a pound lotus roots (or water chestnuts), peeled and minced
  • Two pieces of one-inch ginger, minced
  • One egg white
  • Two tablespoons of water
  • 2 tablespoons of Kikkoman soy sauce (or any other kind of light soy sauce)
  • One quarter of one teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • Three spring onions, finely chopped
  • One tablespoon of sesame oil
  • Salt to taste
  • A piece of dry lotus leaf


  1. Pre-soak the glutinous rice in a bowl half an hour .
  2. Add water (two tablespoons in total) little by little into the pork and stir in the same direction in a big bowl.
  3. Add ginger to mix
  4. Add Kikkoman soy sauce to mix.
  5. Break a small hole of one egg and let the egg white flow into the bow. Mix evenly.
  6. Add ground white pepper, lotus roots (water chestnuts), spring onions and sesame oil to combine evenly.
  7. Add salt to taste.
  8. Let all the combined ingredients stay aside for 15 minutes so that each ingredient’s flavor can intermingle.
  9. Put the lotus leave onto the steamer with 2-inch-depth water.
  10. Use your hand (or a scoop) to take out about two tablespoons of combined ingredients to shape into an egg-size ball. Roll it into the glutinous rice until the ball it’s fully coated with rice. Place meatball onto the lotus leave. Make sure there is some space (about one to two centimeters) between each meatball. Finish making the rest of meatballs with the same method. 20 meatballs in total.
  11. Steam for 30 minutes until meatballs are cooked.
  12. Decorate each meatball with a goji berry.
  13. Serve warm.


  1. Some fat is indispensable in this dish
  2. Water and egg white can both help meat tender.
  3. A lotus leaf is strongly recommended when steaming. Its fragrance will help the meatballs much tastier. I wish I could find a fresh lotus leaf but I have never found it available in the market. Who can offer me some?
  4. If you concern glutinous rice is not easily digested for kids, use Sushi rice.





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