Follow a novice cook on her way to great Asian foodom!

Hello Friends! I hope you are done with holiday shopping and is prepared for Christmas festivities! We don’t actually do much gift exchange in this household, but little girl and all her cousin do get gifts from “Santa” and each other, the funny thing is I normally look for great deals online for next year’s presents, in fact I am already done with 2012’s Christmas shopping, it’s a great feeling knowing a year in advance that there’s no need to mess with holiday traffic and last minute mall craziness!

I am honored to be one of the blog sitters for Nami @ Just One Cookbook while she’s traveling with family at Taiwan. When I first received the assignment, my Mom and I were discussing what to make, then all the sudden my sister said “Pearl Balls”! Our eyes light up, because this is truly a dish that EVERYONE fights over during Chines New Year! The following is Nami’s blog posting, you can also visit her blog directly here. We’ve become great friends and I’ve looked to her recipes many times to feed my hungry family, they are satisfied every time and I  truly appreciate her generosity in sharing her world of yumminess!

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Unlike other guest bloggers that I’ve met through food blogging, I met Cindy in a different way.  I was introduced to her by our mutual friends because they think of us as a “food blogger”.  Cindy lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and a daughter so we haven’t actually met in person yet.  But we started to talk frequently and discuss food and family life.

Cindy started blogging about her recipes when she started to cook at home more often to save money.  What I admire about her is that she has a full time job as a business owner/web & graphics designer during the day, and she still tries hard to cook healthy meals for her family.  Her site, Weeknite Meals, features mainly Chinese and other Asian dishes that even full-time working parent can come home and prepare in a short time.  Her recipes are fool-proof as she had prepared all the recipes after her work hours.  I’m especially happy to introduce her site to all the busy moms/dads who want to feed children good meals.  You can also visit her online at FacebookPlease welcome Cindy with her traditional Chinese New Year’s dish.  I actually had this dish for the first time in Taiwan this time, and it was so delicious!  I am going to make this myself soon.

Welcome Cindy!  Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live in the great State of Texas, where it’s pretty much Summer all year long. I am married to a fun and wonderful husband, we have a sassy little girl, an old sweet dog, and a mischievous bunny. I am a Graphics/Web Designer by trade, Mom/Wife 24/7.  Been known as a terrible cook for years, in fact hubby refused to eat my cooking so we resorted to eating out every single night. With the economy down turn, the beginning of 2009 I decided to start cooking at home to save money, with mad online recipe searching skills and determination, the family actually seem to enjoy what I’ve come up with, which encourage me to experiment more with cooking.

Please tell us a little bit about your blog.

I started Weeknite Meals in 2010 to keep track of recipes in case my daughter wants to learn how to cook when she’s older, also to share photos of the food we enjoy.  Most of the recipes I cook are Asian, it’s not that we don’t like non-Asian food, it’s because the few times I tried to cook non-Asian, they turned out disastrously. My blog includes recipes that I’ve tried and enjoyed, though after cooking for the past few years, lately I’ve started to modify and come up with recipes of my own, I also started to include tid bits of my life, so Foodie friends can get some insights into my life.

How do you feel about your own food blogging experience so far?

I LOVE food blogging! Well at times when I get stressed out with the design business, I do tend to disappear from the blogsphere. But the food blogging community is a super supportive one, and even when I am not posting, I am always reading.

If you can give one advice to a new food blogger, what would it be?

I am relatively new at blogging, so still learning as I go. I would suggest newbies to set up a “Foodbuzz” account, I met so many lovely people there! Instead of searching blindly on Google, the Food Buzz community has an extensive database of people with similar interests as you, which makes finding and following other bloggers much simpler.

What would you advise to a new cook or someone who wants to start cooking at home more?

Since I started cooking due to the economical downturn, saving money was a big goal. By cooking mostly Asian food, it meant most likely I had the ingredients in my pantry already. If you are starting to cook, try to build up your pantry and maybe stick with recipes from similar regions, it will make your life much easier and wallet much fatter!

Thank you Cindy! From here I will let Cindy take over and show us what she prepared. Enjoy!

Hi all! This is Jeno from Weeknite Meals. I am so honored to be chosen as one of the Nami’s guest food bloggers while she’s on holiday break. I am honored to share one of my family’s old time favorite Chinese New Year’s dish: Pearl Balls! This is something we only got to eat once a year when families visit, and due to a house filled with guests,  we only got to eat a few Pearl Balls at a time. I’ve always imagined it’s a difficult dish to make, this is why a seasoned cook like my Mom would only make it once a year. Come to find out that’s not the case at all! In fact we really had a great time cooking together (Well mostly my Mom did the cooking, while I took photos), my little girl and her cousins devoured so many as their afternoon snack, and still asked for more to take home for the evening. I hope you will give this recipe a try and let me know whether you like them as much as we do!

Pearl Balls Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 25-30 Pearl Balls

Ingredients:

    • 1.5 cups of sweet rice (soak in water overnight, drain and set aside right before you are ready to prepare)
    • 1 pound ground pork (try to buy the ones with a little big more fat content so the pearl balls won’t come out too dry)
    • 1 tbsp green onions, chopped
    • 1 tbsp minced ginger (optional)
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp MSG (optional)
    • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
    • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
    • 6 water chestnuts, peeled, smashed then minced

Instructions:

    1. Except the sweet rice, mix all other ingredients together in a large bowl.
    2. Grab handfuls of the mixed ingredients, pat them in your palms to make the mixture stickier.
    3. Start boiling water to prepare the steamer, layer cheese cloth on the bottom of steamer (Optional).
    4. Make meat balls, about 1 inch diameter each.
    5. Roll the meat balls in sweet rice, make sure all sides are covered. Now the meat balls should resemble beautiful pearls!

Place the pearl balls into your steamer, steam on high for 20 minutes.

Enjoy as an appetizer or a side dish!

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Comments on: "Pearl Balls (Blog Sitting for Nami @ Just One Cookbook)" (15)

  1. Jeno, as I have just said on Nami’s blog, this recipe is sensational and it will appear very soon on my blog! I think this is love at first sight.
    You have surpassed yourself with all the photos and the last is one of the cutest food blog photos I have ever seen. By the way, you look like a beautiful, elegant hostess with this tray :-)
    I am surprised you have cooked only since 2009 because your dishes don’t look amateurish and some sound really complex.
    In short, it’s a fascinating post, terrific recipe and perfect photos! Congratulations!
    PS Sorry for bothering you already, but I really intend to make these balls soon. If I don’t find fresh water chestnuts can I substitute them with canned (if they exist) or with something else (if I don’t find canned ones).

    • Hi Sissi! Thank you so much for the compliments! I am blushing as I read them! And yes I started cooking 2009, it’s been a lot of trial and errors, I still find my dishes not taste consistent even referring back to the same recipe, very strange…

      Anyway, per your question, it’s totally acceptable to used canned water chestnuts. In fact the next time I make this, I will be used the ones from a can because I am “Peeler Challenged”. If you can not find any water chestnuts at all, it’s ok to leave them out of the recipe, the flavor will be the same, just without the slight crunch. Can’t wait to see your posting!

      Merry Christmas!

      • Thank you, Jeno, for the quick answer. I have ground pork all the time and now that I write these words I have remembered that I bought by accident Thaï sticky rice (5 kg!!!) because I thought it was the Thaï Jasmine rice my husband loves and which has the same logo. I opened it at home and almost cried… I think I must have used it only once, I gave some to my friends… and now I have a chance to use it in such a luscious recipe!
        I thinks it’s destiny! Me and my 3 (or more) kg of sticky rice are ready for the new recipe!
        Merry Christmas to you and your whole family!

  2. I think, not “thinkS”, I’m sorry for this typo.

    • Ahhh, a big YES to having the sweet rice laying around just waiting to be utilized for this recipe! I hope you and yours enjoy the pearl balls as much as we do! It’s funny because I am having lunch right now, little girl and I are having a savory stir fried sweet rice with marinated meat on top, so good!

  3. Hi Jeno! Hopped over from Nami’s and I’m so glad she introduced you to us! I love your recipes and will definitely be trying out some very soon! I’ve never heard Pearl Balls before but I definitely all the ingredients used! I think i might have some sweet rice in the cupboard so I shall start off with this recipe first!

  4. Thank you so much for blog sitting with this beautiful pearl balls recipe! Please send my best regards to Jen Mama and thank you so much for making these. Wishing you have a wonderful holiday with your family!

    • Hi Nami! Welcome come!!! It was super fun blog sitting for you, thank you again for the opportunity to meet all these wonderful foodies! I will call my Mom and tell her you said thanks! Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family!

  5. Beautiful guest post of these awesome pearl balls, Jeno! :D
    Now that Christmas is over and Chinese New Year is less than a month away, I’d love to try making these pearl balls to impress my parents and parents-in-law! I’m sure they will like it very much! ;)

    • Thank you so much Lyn! I had a great time blog sitting and it was wonderful meeting more great folks like you! Yes, do make the pearl balls to impress the elders, you are a great cook and I am sure they will turn out amazing!

  6. The pearl balls are some of my favorite festival dishes!! I’ve done these on my own a few times but they never tasted quite like what my grandfather used to make these a couple times a year during the family reunions!
    Your recipe looks great and will definitely try it out next time! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Thank you Yi! I love that your grandpa was the cook, how fascinating!
      BTW your blog looks wonderful, I just subscribed, will go and explore all your dishes very soon!

  7. […] or oil. I have changed the recipe slightly, adding grated ginger which I love combined with pork. Click here to see Jeno’s original recipe and her beautiful photos. (You can also see the Pearl Balls as […]

  8. These look amazing but I’m confused about the picture with all the ingredients together. What is in the tray next to the green onions?

    • Hi Kat! I am sorry about the confusion, should have labeled them more closely. The item next to green onions are actually minced ginger. those are optional and appearantly I totally forgot to list it in the ingredients. Thanks for the reminder!

      Have a good weekend!

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