These Pork Siomai Dumplings – Pearl Balls in Sweet Rice are perfect for the New Year’s or any family gathering. If you’re ever in Manila during Chinese New Year, be prepared for lots of feasting. During a visit to Manila a while ago, I was in the Philippines the same week Chinese New Year was celebrated. Traffic was horrendous. It took me hours to travel by car from one place to another. The city was one big lively fiesta. Restaurants were packed with people. Food was abundant in homes, groceries, sidewalk stalls. Bargains on merchandise were everywhere. Houses were being cleaned from top to bottom. Everyone was exchanging ‘good luck’ greetings. Cash gifts in little red envelopes were given to family and friends. Everyone wanted to give and share some form of ‘prosperity’.
In our home here in America, I have tried through the years to keep traditions going during Chinese New Year. This year the lunar calendar celebrates the Year of the (Wooden) Horse starting on January 31. My youngest son was born during the Year of the Horse, so I told him it would be a lucky 2014 for him. My older son, on the other hand, is all set to move to another city, to a new job. I saw this as a sign to celebrate. So I cooked the family dishes that are favorites.
This is another version of the steamed dumpling ‘siomai’ (say “shu-my”). It has the same ground pork filling that I use for lumpia shanghai, wonton soup or pot stickers. But instead of wrapping them in won ton wrappers, I rolled the uncooked pork meatballs in sweet rice or what is called ‘malagkit’ (say ‘mah-lag-kit’). I then steamed the siomai or dumplings over briskly boiling water and within minutes, dinner was ready.
I have cooked these type of siomai or ‘pearl balls’ as some call it so often that I can now do this with my eyes closed. This was a recipe passed around the family a long time ago, handed down from my mother-in-law, aunts, cousins and family friends. It is such a hearty and filling entrée. Or if desired it can be served as an appetizer or even ‘merienda’ (afternoon snack) which Filipinos enjoy. I cook this so often that if there’s a party and guests see these ‘pearl balls’ on the table, everyone knows I brought them.
Once fully cooked, the steamed rice balls filled with ground pork are big and heavy on the fork or the chopsticks. After steaming, the rice grains that encase the round pork ball are plump, soft and chewy.
Grasp the chopsticks firmly, lift a steamed pearl ball and dip it generously in a side of soy sauce with lemon. The savory siomai dumplings wrapped in rice are sure reminders of good times, good fortune and prosperity that are to come in the coming year.
Pork Siomai Pearl Balls in Sweet Rice
- Bamboo or Stainless steel steamer
- 1 cup malagkit (sweet or sticky rice) pre-soaked in water (from Asian markets)
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1 whole white or yellow onion chopped fine
- 1 whole carrot peeled, chopped fine, about 1 cup
- 2 stalks scallions or green onions chopped, white parts only
- 1 whole egg
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/8 cup soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons from Asian markets xiao xing rice wine
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper powder
- 1/4 cup soy sauce for side dipping sauce soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon calamansi juice for side dipping sauce calamansi is found in Asian markets or use juice of a lemon
- pancit or noodle dish for serving stir fried, see past blog posts
- To prepare the sweet rice: Pre-soak the sweet rice grains (uncooked) in a medium bowl filled with water. Water has to cover the rice grains. Soak at least 6 hours or overnight. When ready to use, drain and discard water the following day.
- Prepare the pork filling: In a large mixing bowl, mix together the ground pork, onion, carrot, scallions, egg, bread crumbs, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, salt and black pepper. Mix thoroughly and form into round meatballs, about 1-inch in diameter. Place in a covered container and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours till ready to cook.
- To assemble the pork siomai: Roll the pork meatballs around the bowl of sweet rice grains. Make sure rice grains cover the entire meatball. Place the pearl balls in a shallow round plate that will fit inside the steamer. Leave a space of half an inch between the siomai because the rice grains will puff up and expand.
- To cook: Steam the siomai or pearl balls over briskly boiling water for 30 minutes. When cooked, transfer siomai or pearl balls to a serving platter. Serve with a side of soy sauce sprinkled with lemon (or calamansi juice). Pair this steamed siomai with a noodle dish like pancit guisado (see past blog post).
- Cook's comments: Some siomai or steamed dumpling recipes include chopped shrimps in the ingredient list. For allergy reasons, I omit the shrimps, especially if these dumplings will be served to a large party.
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Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
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