Jul 13, 2013

Celery and Pork Pearl Rice Balls - 芹菜珍珠丸

Pearl rice balls got the name from its appearance. Generally speaking, it's a traditional Chinese steamed dish made with pork meat balls coated with glutinous rice. The rice has a mild and slightly oiled pearl-like shine after steaming, thus the name pearl rice balls. It's easy to make and little cleaning required. On top of that, pearl rice balls can be a great afternoon snack or perfect Asian style party food!

Celery and pork pearl rice balls 芹菜珍珠丸 -

Ingredients (for 10 to 12 pieces)?
  • 0.8 lb of ground pork
  • 1 cup of glutinous rice 糯米 (preferred shorter grains)
  • 1 tablespoon of chicken stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon of grated ginger
  • 1 small stalk of celery
  • 2 water chestnuts 荸薺
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • Some Sriracha sauce
  • Some cilantro 


Gently rinse the glutinous rice just like preparing regular white rice. Shorter grain is preferred because it tends to get sticker compared to longer grain version, which will better stick on the pork balls during the steaming process.

Soak the glutinous rice in water for about 2 hours. You can substitute with lukewarm water and cut down the soaking time by half when in a hurry. Once done, drain well and set aside for later use. I also use a kitchen towel to pat dry the remaining moisture.

Have a bigger container ready for the meat ball ingredients. Chop the celery into tiny cubes, only need about 1 1/2 tablespoons here. Finely chop the cilantro stems, about 1 tablespoon. Peel and chop the water chestnuts into tiny pieces. The water chestnuts provide a crunchy bite to the pork balls, so make sure not to over-chop them, otherwise we'll lose the texture.

Add the chopped celery, cilantro roots, water chestnuts, and ground pork into the container. Also add about 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of grated ginger. Mix all the ingredients. Add about 1 tablespoon of chicken stock or water to the pork mixture then keep stirring till the liquid has been fully absorbed by all the ingredients. You can also add a small spoonful of corn starch, which will yield a more tender meat mixture after steaming. Once done, let the ingredients "rest" for about 5 minutes before forming into balls.

Use both hands to grab some pork mixture and form them into pork balls. I also use the "toss in between my palms" technique for each pork balls to drive out the air inside the mixture. It's kind of like slapping the meat in between my palms for each pork ball portion. This will also help the meat to stick together and not falling apart.

Roll the pork balls in the glutinous rice. Gently apply some pressure so the rice can better stick on the pork mixture.

Arrange the rice balls onto a plate or container you used for the steamer. Steam for about 40 minutes.

Test the doneness by sticking a toothpick inside the pork balls, if it feels soft then the food is ready. You can also taste some glutinous rice on the side and see if the grains have been fully cooked.

Garnish with some Sriracha sauce, cilantro leaves, and celery leaves before serving. This recipe calls for quite a bit of salt so no dipping sauce is required. However, you can adjust the recipe and use less salt and serve the pearl rice balls with various dipping sauce. Some use sesame sauce, which is similar to the one used for satay. You can also thinly chop the ginger and soak in Zhen Jiang vinegar 鎮江醋 as other type of dressing.

Let your creativity runs wild, if the sauce fails, rest assure that at least we've still got yummy celery and pork pearl rice balls here!

Other party food recipes:


  1. Glutinous rice takes a long time to cook, so I am guessing the 40mins steaming time is for the rice rather than for the meat?

    1. That's what I felt like in the beginning. But after soaking the rice for close to two hours, the rice actually cooks fairly fast!