Pearl Balls

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Breaking news: plant based mince in meat section of supermarket. Boom. This is an exciting development in Australia as we start to see what is readily available in the US hitting our supermarkets. I had to be shown where this was by a buddy as I only stray into the meat aisle these days to buy bones for the dawgs. Mince is versatile, and this plant based mince is no different - the only downside is that isn't gluten free, sorry kids. The first batch I bought went straight to meatballs and a tomato and fennel sugo on cheesy polenta. Heaven. I have a meatloaf and a shepherds pie in my sights, but this week, I wanted to make one of my favorite yum cha and special occasion dim sum - Pearl Balls. 

These are fiddly, and definitely a task for unhurried days of playful kitchen fun with food to be shared with friends in small bamboo baskets, you need a steamer, and glutinous rice for the lovely pearl coating, so make sure you have these in your pantry before you kick off. Water chestnuts are also a must, for that crunchy texture in the balls, a small tin is all you need. I lined my steamer basket with cabbage leaves, you can also use bamboo leaves if you have them in the freezer, or baking paper with some holes punched in it, but the cabbage imparts a subtle flavor and keeps em moist. I served with a little sour savory dipping sauce, which was perfect.


Large steamer basket with lid


  • 2/3 cup glutinous rice
  • I packet Minced plant based fresh mince
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons corn flour
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 thumb ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 4 green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 vegan eggs equivalent (I use Orgran brand)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • 1/3 cup water chestnuts, roughly chopped

Dipping Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Sliced green onions

Let's DO This!

  1. Soak rice in water for 1 hour.
  2. Combine all the ingredients, except the water chestnuts, mince and glutinous rice, in a food processor. Pulse a few times.
  3. Add mince and water chestnuts. Process until it forms a paste. The paste pliable and easy to shape into balls. If its too loose, you can blend in more cornstarch. If it’s too dry or tough, blend in a bit of water.
  4. Set up your balling station: drain the rice and put in a flattish bowl, put the mince in another bowl, and line your steamer with cabbage leaves.
  5. Form a small ball of the mince mix in your hand, this should be about a bite size. Roll in the glutinous rice pressing it gently into the ball until it is covered all over.
  6. Place in steamer and continue, keeping the balls about 1cm apart.
  7. When ready to cook, place the steamer over a pot of boiling water and cook for 20 mins until the rice is translucent. 
  8. Combine all with dipping sauce ingredients together and put in a small dish.
  9. Serve up with a banquet of other vegan yum cha treats!


Polly McGee