10 Best Taiwanese Foods That Make You Want Some Tea: #9 Taiwanese Rice Balls (by guest blogger Amy Hsiao)

As a child growing up in Taiwan, I would often buy from a street vendor a Taiwanese rice ball (actually more the size of a small burrito) as my walk-and-eat breakfast on my way to school.  These portable bites of goodness, made fresh upon order and then handed over in a plastic bag, would always keep my belly full and satisfied, ready for the day, to be enjoyed warm or cold.  The classic beverage pairing of choice is the traditional breakfast beverage soy bean milk.  But I personally enjoy washing it down with a nice cup of oolong tea, like the fragrant green oolong from Taiwan, Wenshan Baozhong, hand plucked and hand made, not unlike the delicious rice balls.
What Is a Taiwanese Rice Ball?
Made traditionally with glutinous/sticky white rice, the "purple rice" version (pictured here) made with forbidden rice is gaining popularity.  The idea is simple: freshly cook a nice warm pot of rice and spoon it onto a bag-covered tea towel to help shape the rice into a ball.
And it's what gets added as the filling of the rice ball that gives them the rich and complex flavors.  
What's Inside? 
Below are three examples of fillings (from left to right):
  • Savory: Pickled turnip, sesame seeds, shredded pork (known as pork "song"), with chili spices added
  • Savory: Pickled turnip, sesame seeds, shredded fish (known as fish "song")
  • Sweet: Ground peanut powder
All versions include the essential Chinese fried doughnut, which is what gives the rice ball the crunch and savoriness.  And extras can be often added, such as a soy sauce stewed egg, a fried pork chop, corn, or even cheese.
With the fillings completed, the rice is then shaped into a ball, with all of the fillings tucked nicely inside.  Delicious.

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