From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Most lovers of Chinese food call these dumplings pearl balls. My family, and the analysts I worked with prior to retirement, call them Chinese porcupines. Louie, a mentally challenged dishwasher, gave them their name. In addition to his work in the kitchen, Louie delivered mid-night snacks and breakfast to the computer room when it was in crisis mode. Our systems were responsible for the capture, processing and transfer of data for an Asian multinational and we often worked late nights that occasionally bled into the morning. Most of the off-hour food prepared in the kitchen was Chinese or Japanese, and Louie, who was inordinately fond of pearl balls, always included them in the selection he brought for us to eat to us. Louie was a corporate fixture and he shared a history with a company director that went back to World War II. Wherever John went, Louie went. John's early career was as a lawyer and he was the JAG assigned to represented Louie at his court martial for desertion. Louie, despite a completely normal appearance, was intellectually slow. That didn't prevent this simple soul from being drafted. He had a hard time in basic training where he was taunted and bullied, and one day, not understanding the concept of AWOL, he walked off base. Here is where corporate legend takes over. Louie, with help from a stranger, dropped his dog tags in an envelop with a note that said "I quit" and mailed them to President Roosevelt. He was, of course, arrested. It took the JAG corp a while to straighten out the mess, but Louie was finally released from prison and John became his benefactor. Louie, with John's help, eventually found his way to a Japanese kitchen where he became an honorary member of the computer team he looked after and ate with. Louie died several years before I retired. An employee collection effort and corporate matching funds saw that he was properly buried with a service, a headstone and friends who came to celebrate his life and say a last goodbye. I'll always associate pearl balls with Louie and John - his champion. These are really good. Children love them. I think you'll enjoy them, too. Here is how they are made.
Zhenzhu Qiu - Chinese Steamed Pearl Balls...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite
1 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
8 water chestnuts, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 cup glutinous rice
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
Salt to taste
1) Combine pork, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until a paste forms. Add egg, water chestnuts, scallions, ginger, garlic, cornstarch and water; process just until blended. Set aside.
2) Place rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water. Fill a tea kettle with water (about 2-quarts) and bring to a boil. Pour boiling water over rice; rinse again with cold water and drain well. Spread rice on a plate or cookie sheet.
3) Form pork mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll meatballs in rice. Arrange meatballs on a steamer rack. Bring water in base of steamer or wok to a boil. Set steamer rack over water, cover, and steam for 20 minutes over rapidly boiling water. Reduce heat to low and steam until rice is tender, about 15 minutes longer.
4) Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, sugar, sesame oil and salt (if using) in a small bowl; whisk to dissolve sugar and form a thin sauce.
5) Remove rack from steamer. Serve meatballs from steamer rack or transfer to a serving platter. Serve piping hot with dipping sauce. Yield: 20 pearl balls.
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