“Love at first sight” strikes me as a concept only suited for works of fiction, but I do believe in inspiration at a glance. Perhaps that’s somewhat related?

First Generation by Frankie Gaw

Flipping through First Generation by Frankie Gaw, that’s all I could think of as every photo and word seemed to leap from the pages. A mixture of traditional and contemporary takes on Taiwanese cuisine, it speaks to me like a heartfelt love letter, not some quick fix compendium of semi-homemade meals. Crafted with such care, it’s about more than recipes. It’s about the people and places that make them so special, the memories attached to them that add more flavor than any spice or seasoning.

Grandma’s Pearl Meatballs

This isn’t a book review, mind you. I could never do proper justice to all this one has to offer. Instead, it’s my own response to such a fearless, passionate muse. Filled with poetic, immersive descriptions, you can easily picture the scene to experience the emotions, not just the flavors, behind every dish. That’s what really drew me to Grandma’s Pearl Meatballs, a humble yet visually stunning mixture of protein and grains. By coating the morsels in soaked rice before placing them in the steamer, you get a similar effect to a rice paper wrapper, but with more heft and nuance.

What Is Jade Pearl Rice?

The first thing I thought of was the lustrous, pearlescent jade bamboo rice in the pantry, which inspired a greener corresponding interior, too. This short grain rice is infused with bamboo extract, tinted light green by the chlorophyll. Some say it has a subtle vanilla taste, although your mileage (and perception) may vary. At least, it’s very pretty, providing excellent inspiration for an unconventional departure from the printed text.

Jade Pearl Meatballs

Naturally, the “meat” of these balls comes from white beans, bound lightly with white chia seeds to retain a moist, juicy, and soft interior. Cabbage is replaced with spinach for deeper emerald green hue, but the essential aromatics remain the same. It’s definitely not the recipe as intended, but the creamy and subtle bites are a delightful departure from the usual dumpling or meatball. They belong in their own category of deliciousness.

Yield: Makes 14 - 16 Balls

Jade Pearl Meatballs

Jade Pearl Meatballs

Inspired by First Generation by Frankie Gaw, this vegan version of "Grandma's Pearl Meatballs" is gloriously green all the way through. Tender jade pearl rice acts like a toothsome outer coating, giving you all the best parts of both dumplings and meatballs in one bite.


  • 1 Cup Jade Pearl Rice, Soaked for 4 Hours
  • 1 (15-Ounce) Can Navy Beans, Thoroughly Drained
  • 2 Tablespoons White Chia Seeds, Ground
  • 1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
  • 10 Ounces Frozen Finely Chopped Spinach, Thawed and Very Thoroughly Drained
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 Inch Fresh Ginger, Minced
  • 3 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
  • 2 Teaspoons Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt


  1. Begin by rinsing the soaked rice until the water runs clear. Drain thoroughly and place in a shallow dish; set aside.
  2. Place the white beans in a large bowl and mash roughly with a potato masher. It should be creamy but still slightly chunky. Sprinkle the chia seeds and nutritional yeast on top, stirring to combine.
  3. Firmly squeeze the spinach to remove as much excess water as possible. This is critical to make sure the balls don't end up being too soft. Once fairly dry, add the spinach to the beans, followed by the garlic, ginger, scallions, sesame oil, and salt. Mix well to incorporate.
  4. Use a small cookie or ice cream scoop to portion out 1-inch balls, rolling them gently between lightly moistened hands. Place hem, one at a time, in the bowl of soaked rice. Roll them around to coat with the rice, carefully pressing it into the sides.
  5. Place the coated balls into a bamboo steamer lined with parchment paper or cabbage. Depending on the size of your steamer, you may need to cook them in batches.
  6. Steam for 15 - 18 minutes, until the rice is tender. Enjoy hot.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 49Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 80mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 2gSugar: 0gProtein: 2g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

7 thoughts on “Pearl-Clutching

  1. Wow, your connection with Frankie Gaw’s “First Generation” is truly inspiring! It’s amazing how a cookbook can evoke such deep emotions and creativity. Your twist on Grandma’s Pearl Meatballs using Jade Pearl Rice and white beans sounds like a delicious and imaginative departure. Cooking as an art form indeed.

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