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Pearly meatballs (zhen zhu rou wan)

Time 45 minutes
Yields Makes 36 meatballs
Pearly meatballs (zhen zhu rou wan)
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
1

Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water, and then soak for 3 hours in hot water, or overnight in cold water; drain and set aside.

2

Meanwhile, soak the dried shrimp and the shiitake mushrooms in separate bowls of hot water for about 30 minutes to reconstitute. After soaking, drain, squeeze dry and finely chop them separately. Finely chop the ham; set aside.

3

Peel the water chestnuts if you are using fresh ones, then chop them finely by hand.

4

In a medium bowl, combine the water chestnuts, ground pork, ginger, wine, egg and potato flour mixture. Season with three-fourths teaspoon salt and one-half teaspoon pepper, or to taste. On a plate or in a shallow baking dish, combine the ham and shiitake with the drained rice. Lightly grease a heatproof plate with peanut oil (choose one that will fit comfortably inside a steamer).

5

Shape the meat mixture into walnut-sized balls and roll in the rice mixture to coat generously. Lay the meatballs in one layer on the oiled plate; you might need to steam them in two batches, depending on the size of your steamer.

6

Steam, tightly covered, over high heat until cooked through, about 10 minutes; break one in half to check that it is cooked. Serve directly on the plate, with a scattering of green onion and sesame oil.

Adapted from “Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province” by Fuchsia Dunlop. The rice for this dish should be soaked for a few hours, preferably overnight, before cooking. In Hunan, the cooked meatballs are often piled into a bowl and then resteamed before serving. Glutinous rice, dried shrimp and Shaoxing wine are available at select well-stocked grocery stores as well as at Asian markets.

S. Irene Virbila is a former restaurant critic and wine columnist for the Los Angeles Times. She left in 2015.
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