Like many cooks, I am always looking for ways to have flavorful and interesting meals while saving money wherever possible. A few months ago, our local grocery put ground chicken on sale for a ridiculously low price, so I bought 5 pounds, not knowing what I could possibly do with it. That made an opportunity to experiment, so I divided the chicken into smaller 4-ounce packages and made several different things, mostly nothing that I’d want to do again. Then I ran across a recipe for Pearl Balls, and thought maybe this! Traditionally, these are made with pork or shrimp, but I thought the chicken might do just as well. I took the basic idea of a meatball coated in rice then steamed, and ran with it.
Most recipes I found call for soaking the rice overnight. But, for me, I barely can plan a meal a few hours ahead much less a day or more unless it is Thanksgiving. So, how to shortcut that? Easy, make extra rice the next time you make it, and freeze the leftover cooked rice. I froze about 1 cup of cooked jasmine rice, which defrosts in about an hour, ready to use. I like the sweetness and stickiness of jasmine rice best, but I have also used the specialty sushi rice which is a bit stickier and not as sweet. I have made these now several times, and I am finally happy with the recipe. It is flavorful, and made with ingredients easy to find. Added to a meal with some additional Asian bites and steamed vegetables, it makes a wonderful meal.
Mix black sesame seeds with leftover sticky rice and set aside.
Coarsely chop chicken in a food processor. Skip this step if using ground chicken.
If you don’t have a food processor, pound the tenders between two pieces of plastic with a mallet to break up the meat.
Add grated carrot, onion and spices. I don’t add salt at this stage since these will be served with a sauce like soy sauce which is generally salty enough, even the low sodium versions.
Mix well. Tradition says to use chopsticks to mix, but really a wooden spoon will do.
Form into small meatballs. I find using a scoop makes the sizes more even.
Roll in the rice to coat, pressing the rice to the meat with your hands.
Place in a bamboo steamer (or a use a vegetable steamer). Here I used some lettuce that was turning a bit brown and past the point where I wanted to eat it in a salad, but it is fine as a steamer liner. I also like using parchment paper in the steamer.
Steam for 20 -25 minutes, until the internal temperature is 160 – 170.
Steam them with shumai or pot stickers to add variety to the meal. This time, I made the meatballs a bit too big, so the next time I used the smallest scoop for more bite-sized pearl balls.
After 10 minutes or so, add a second steamer with veggies. I like snow peas or broccoli best. Sometimes I add sliced tomato to the plate.
Asian Pearl Balls
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, or 3 chicken tenders (or about 4 ounces ground chicken)
1 tablespoon grated carrot
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
1 /4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 cup leftover sticky rice
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
Mix sesame seeds with leftover sticky rice and set aside. Coarsely chop chicken in a food processor. Add grated carrot, onion and spices. Mix well and form into small meatballs. Roll in the rice to coat, pressing the rice to the meat with your hands. Steam in a bamboo steamer (or a use a vegetable steamer) for 20 -25 minutes, until the internal temperature is 160 – 170. Serve with a dipping sauce like oyster sauce, plain (low sodium) soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. Yield 6-8 pearl balls. Enjoy!
Add more delicious bites to the plates, and you have a wonderful meal. I made these again last night, this time marinating the chicken in some lemon juice to add a citrus note, added egg rolls and pork dumplings, and served with a full steamer basket of broccoli. Have you made any Asian inspired meals?