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Sweet Green Rice Balls

Sweet Green Rice Balls (makes about 18)
This traditional Chinese dish for Qingming is made with fresh Mugwort to get the green color.  Mugwort is not readily available in US grocery stores, so I have substituted matcha powder to get the green color.  If you happen to grow Mugwort, you will need to pick enough to make a 1/3 cup of juice with it and substitute that for the water (Put it in the blender with about ¼ cup of water and slowly add additional water as it blends together to get to the 1/3 cup).
  • 1 cup glutinous rice flour (or sweet rice flower)
  • 1 Tblsp Matcha Powder
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup sweet red bean paste
  • Powdered sugar for dusing (American addition)
Put the flour and matcha powder into a bowl and slowly drizzle in the water while stirring the flour. It should start to form dough. This is a sticky dough and easier to work with if your hands are wet. You will want to shape the dough into a 1 inch diameter log and slice it into 1 inch pieces. You may need to add water to your hands while working and if you are not going to boil these immediately you will need to cover the dough with a wet cloth to keep it from drying out. 

Take one of the pieces and shape it into a ball using your hands. Put a dent in the ball with your thumb and put ½ tsp of the bean paste into the dent and then work the dough around the paste to close it into the ball. If it isn’t working, flatten the ball into a disc in the palm of your hand and put the past in the middle of the disk and fold up the sides to close in the paste. If you tear the dough or the seams are not sealing using a little water to help work the dough together and close off the seams.

Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. You will drop in the rice balls and cook until they float to the top and expand (This will take about 3-5 minutes). To know if the rice balls expanded, just leave them floating at the top of the pot for a minute. The water needs to stay at a rolling boil until you get all the rice balls out, so you may want to work in small batches of 5 so you do not drop the water temperature too much. Use a slotted spoon or pasta spoon to scoop out the rice balls and put them on a plate. They will feel a little slimy because of the rice gluten. You can opt to dust them with powdered sugar if you wish. As they cool/dry they will be a little sticky, so wax paper is needed. These balls are sometimes served in a sugar broth made with 1 cup water, ¼ cup brown sugar and a slice of fresh ginger. Dessert soups are quite common in China so give it a try.

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