PEARL BALLS (zhenzhu rouyuan)
Mrs. Chiang considers this a dish for company. It contains no exotic ingredients and is not hard to make, but some of the steps in its preparation take a long time. They do not, however, require much effort, and most of the work can be done in advance. What you end up with is a dish of delicately flavored steamed meatballs, each one covered with a pearly coating of glutinous rice.
3/4 cup glutinous rice
2 cups water, approximately
1 pound ground pork
1/2-inch piece fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns
1 egg white
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
The first step, soaking the glutinous rice, takes at least 3 to 4 hours. Be fore- warned and allocate your time accordingly.
Put the glutinous rice in a bowl and cover it with the water. Set it aside to soak for at least 3 or 4 hours. (It won't hurt if the rice soaks even longer, so you can start your evening meal at breakfast time if you aren't going to be in the kitchen during the day. ) After the glutinous rice has soaked for its allotted time, drain it and set it aside.
Put the ground pork in a bowl.
Peel the ginger and then chop it as fine as you can, until it reaches the consistency of farina. Add it to the pork.
Clean the scallions, then chop them, both green part and white, into tiny pieces, about the size of coarse bread crumbs.
Add the chopped scallions to the ground pork.
Now add the soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns, egg white, and cornstarch to the pork and mix everything together thoroughly.
Using a tablespoon and your hands, shape the pork mixture into small balls, about the size of a walnut; you should get about 18 meatballs.
Roll each ball in the glutinous rice until the outside of the ball is completely covered. Press the rice into the balls with your hands, then put the meatballs in a shallow bowl or plate for steaming.
If you have a Chinese steamer, set it up; if you don't, you can devise one from a large covered pot or a wok and its cover.
When the water in the bottom of the steamer is boiling, put the plate of sticky rice-covered balls on the rack over the water and cover the steamer. Steam the balls for 1 hour. Keep the flame fairly high and check the steamer occasionally to make sure that the water in the bottom has not all boiled away.
After the hour is up, the meatballs will be ready to serve. (You may want to transfer them to a cooler plate for serving.) Note : The meatballs can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for several hours until you are ready to steam them.