Pearl Balls

Chinese style glutinous rice ball
canacol / Getty Images
  • Total: 60 mins
  • Prep: 25 mins
  • Cook: 35 mins
  • Soak Rice: 8 hrs
  • Yields: 28 to 30 balls

Pearl balls are a fun finger food made with sticky rice and ground pork. The meat, along with minced water chestnuts, green onion, and soy sauce, are formed into small meatballs. Instead of being wrapped in a dumpling wrapper, the meat is coated in sticky glutinous rice.

What makes this appetizer stand out are the grains of rice which turn a pearly color when cooked. The interior is meaty and tender, while the outside is chewy—making the pearl balls fun to eat. Serve your homemade pearl balls with soy sauce for drizzling or dipping.

Note that while the preparation and cooking time for pearl balls is under an hour, be sure to allow several hours for soaking the glutinous rice. The easiest method is simply to soak it overnight.​ Then it will take less than an hour to prepare and steam the dish.


  • 3/4 cup glutinous rice (also called sweet or sticky rice)
  • 1 pound ground pork (or finely diced pork)
  • 1 large green onion (minced; at least 3 tablespoons)
  • 2 water chestnuts (minced)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (plus more for serving)
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper (to taste)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Soak the glutinous rice in water for at least 6 to 8 hours (preferably overnight).

  3. When you're ready to make the pearl balls, drain the rice well in a sieve or colander. Spread out on a baking sheet.

  4. In a large bowl, combine the pork, green onion, water chestnuts, egg white, soy sauce, sherry, salt, and pepper. Prepare a steamer for steaming by adding water to the pan and bringing it to a simmer.

  5. Take about 1 tablespoon of the ground pork mixture and form into a ball. Roll lightly over the glutinous rice and place on a heatproof plate. Continue with the rest of the pork mixture, placing the balls 1/2-inch apart. (You will need at least 2 plates.)

  6. Place the plates in a steamer container or on a bamboo basket in a wok. Alternatively, add to a lightly oiled steamer tray in a metal steamer. Cover and steam the pearl balls over boiling water for between 25 to 35 minutes, until they are cooked through. Steam in two batches if needed.

  7. Serve the pearl balls hot with soy sauce.


  • Sticky rice is also called glutinous rice and sometimes Thai sweet rice. It can be found at Chinese or Asian markets and can be ordered online.
  • Draining and spreading out the rice just before making the pearl balls will ensure that the rice doesn't dry out too much.
  • You can use pork butt or shoulder instead of ground pork. Finely chop the meat or run it through a meat grinder before using.