Mar 18, 2014

Panda Rice Balls with Spicy and Crunchy Ground Pork Stir Fry Stuffing

Don't be fooled by the cute appearance of these panda rice balls. Their inner souls (stuffing) might not be as innocent as they looked, which were made of ground pork, fried flour stick, and mouth burning ingredients like chili bean paste, Sriracha, and fresh chilies.

Ingredients (for 6 to 8 rice balls)?

  • 2 cups of glutinous rice
  • 1.5 lbs of ground pork
  • 1 fried flour stick (老油條)
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 4 red chilies
  • 2 to 3 stalks of scallion
  • 2 tablespoons of black bean soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of Sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon of chili bean paste 辣豆瓣醬
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 pinch of black pepper
  • Some olive oil
  • Some dried seaweed/nori sheets


Gently wash the glutinous rice and soak in water for 20 minutes. One ready, drain and pour in some more water till the rice just slightly submerged in the liquid. Steam in rice cooker and make sure to fluff out the rice once ready. If your rice cooker already has preset function for cooking glutinous rice, just prepare the rice according to your rice cooker's instruction.

The fried flour stick is a common traditional Chinese breakfast item. Some Chinese grocery store will have a breakfast section where you can buy freshly made fried flour stick. The one I'm using here is over-fried version, which is harder and crunchier than the regular kind. If this ingredient is unavailable, simply cook the stuffing without or substitute with plain croutons.

Crush the fried flour stick into smaller pieces by hand. It'll be hard to crumble the flour stick if it has turned soft due to moisture. In that case, heat it up in the oven for about 5 minutes beforehand. The flour stick should be very easy to break apart once dried enough. 

Discard the scallion stems and chop the remaining into smaller pieces. Discard the chili stems and finely chop the remaining. Peel and chop off the ends of garlic cloves then give them a fine chop. 

Drizzle some olive oil to the pan, just enough to evenly coat the bottom. Add in chopped garlic, chilies, and scallion. Turn to medium heat, also add a small pinch of salt and pepper to the mixture. Give it a quick stir. 

Cook till the garlicky aroma comes out and the garlic turns slightly browned, but not burned. Add in ground pork and mix together with the ingredients. Cook for about one minute.

Pour in the soy sauce along the side of the pan so the direct contact of heat will warm up the soy sauce and further heightened the aroma. Also add in the Sriracha sauce, black bean soy sauce, and some chili bean paste. 

Mix well and cook till no more liquid presents, turn off the heat. Lastly, mix in the fried flour stick crumbles. 

Lay a sheet of cling foil on your palm and scoop some rice over. Gently press down and spread the rice evenly to create a 1/3 inch layer. 

Add a spoonful of the stir fry stuffing in the center of the rice then top with a little more rice. Fold in the cling foil and shape the rice into semi oval shaped rice balls. The cling foil prevents the rice from sticking everywhere on your hands. 

Cut the nori sheet with a scissor, make one pair of eyes, one pair of ears, one nose, and one long strip of arms for each panda rice ball. Stick these nori shapes onto the rice balls while the rice balls are still hot, so the evaporated steam and moisture will help the nori stick onto the rice.

You can always change the stuffing into fish or pork floss, perhaps adding seared egg inside, much easier than cooking the stir fry ground pork from scratch. 

There are also nori cutters selling at the Japanese market or can be found easily online, which will definitely save a lot of work compared to cutting out the shapes with scissor and clumsy fingers.

Don't wanna use glutinous rice? Lettuce wrap will be another delicious and healthy option.


  1. really love this and will have to try this for my 4 year old son, he LOVES pandas! THANKS for this post!

    1. I hope he likes it! The hardest part for me was cutting the seaweed, but just be patience and take your time, it'll come along!

  2. So can I say.." do not judge a panda by its cuteness" is actually fiery in there! :p

  3. This sounds really yummy, thanks for sharing this recipe...gonna make it one night this week.