It was a lazy summer day when my grandma called me over to help her do some cooking. I live next door to my grandma so it is very common for her to just call me over to help her out. My grandma makes yummy food that I try to learn so I can make them in the future. This time she wanted to make tapioca balls. These tapioca balls are very versatile since you can make a savoury or a sweet filling. This post was unexpected so the quality of these pictures were not great. I also used my phone because I didn’t have my camera with me. (They were blurry too since my grandma wanted me to finish quickly).
For this recipe, you will need to save some corn husks. Next time you eat corn, dry the husks and store them in a dry place. Before you use them, soak them in some warm water until they soften. Cut the end so they form a long rectangle. Today my grandma made a filling with chinese wood ear mushroom, peas, chicken, pickled chinese vegetables, soya sauce, and eggs. You can make any type of filling you want.
While you are prepping the filling and corn husks, soak some tiny tapioca balls in cold water until the balls are tender. To test if the tapioca balls are ready, try squeezing one between your fingers. They are ready if there are no longer any hard centers. This should be about 10 minutes. Drain the tapioca balls and run warm-hot water over the balls for about 2 minutes to start cooking the balls. Do not use really hot water as it cooks the balls too much. Do not run the water over the balls for too long as it will start sticking. The balls should just begin to start sticking slightly and feel slightly warm. You can shake the balls to remove any excess water. Have a bowl of water handy while making the balls to rinse your hands as the tapioca balls start getting sticky.
When my grandma explains how to make things she always says “do not put too little or too much.” She expects you to put the right amount. I always ask how much? and she will reply “not too little, not too much”. I never know how much she means.
Wet your hands slightly. This will help to prevent the tapioca balls from sticking. Put a layer on your hand and pat slightly. In the middle of your palm, place a teaspoon full of filling. Do not put too little or too much. With your other hand, place a second layer of tapioca balls. Pat down slightly. With both hands cupped, press the ball together. Imagine you are making a snow ball. If you see any of the filling showing, you can cover with some tapioca balls and pat down.
Place the tapioca ball in the center of a corn husk. If the corn husk is too small, discard as it is hard to wrap.
Pinch the ends of the corn husks together and fold over the ball. Imagine you are folding a paper lengthwise. (Hotdog fold I think it is called). Then with the ends of the corn husk fold over like you are wrapping a baby with a blanket. If your the tapioca pearls are sticking to your hand, rinse your hands in the bowl of water.
Place the balls into a steamer. My grandma uses a metal spoon to hold the tapioca balls in place until you fill the entire tray.
Steam for about 10 minutes and turn off the heat. Let the tapioca balls sit in the steamer for another 5 minutes or until they turn translucent. Remove the tapioca balls from the steamer and let cool. These are best eaten warm and fresh but you can store the rest in the fridge. Pop them into the microwave before you eat them.
For a sweet version, you can add some sugar to the tapioca balls and fill with red bean paste or chopped up nuts and candied winter-melon and shredded coconut.
Popo’s tapioca balls
- tiny tapioca pearls
- filling of your choice
- dry corn husks
Soak dry corn husks in warm water until soft. Drain and cut ends to form a long rectangle. Set aside. Make a filling of your choice. Soak tapioca pearls in cold water for about 10 minutes until the tapioca balls are soft. To test this out, squeeze one between your fingers. If there is a hard center, soak for a couple more minutes. Drain with a sieve. Run the tapioca balls under warm-hot tap water for about 2-3 minutes. The water should feel like a nice hot bath. Shake remaining water out. In your palm place a layer of tapioca balls and lightly press down. Place a teaspoon of filling in the center. Place another layer of tapioca pearls on top of the filling. Press down with both hands like you are making a snow ball. Place the ball in the center of a corn husk. Fold the husk lengthwise and then fold the ends around the ball. The ball should be nicely wrapped in a blanket of corn husk. Place the tapioca balls in a steamer. Steam them for about 10 minutes and then turn off the heat. Let the tapioca balls sit in the steamer for another 5 minutes or until the tapioca pearls are clear. Remove from the steamer and enjoy while they are still warm.
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