At first look, the cuisine of the Near East and the Far East have nothing in common; and yet, there are parallels. In Lebanese cuisine, rice flour is used for sweetmeats and puddings but never in savory dishes. As a result, I was very intrigued by Chef Bruno Viala’s interpretation of rice balls. He stuffed them with a shrimp mince, flavored with cilantro, citrus rind, garlic and fresh ginger.
The rice balls are boiled for a few minutes then coated in shredded coconut. The texture and taste of the rice balls is delicate and somewhat bland and the shrimp is flavorful but not overpowering. Perfect for an appetizer.
- 7 ounces rice flour (200 g.)
- 1/2 cup of coconut milk
- 3/4 cup of water
- 1 1/2 cups (or more) of shredded unsweetened grated coconut
- For the shrimp stuffing: 1/3 pound of peeled and minced shrimp
- 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro leaves
- Grated rind of an orange or lemon or lime
- 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger
- 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, mashed in a mortar with a dash of salt
- Place a mound of rice on a work surface; place the coconut milk and water nearby. Mix the coconut milk with the water. Form a crater in the rice and start adding the coconut water gradually, stirring all the while with a wooden spoon forming a paste. Stop adding water when the paste is firm and not sticky and holds its shape well.
- Place the minced shrimp, chopped cilantro, grated orange, sesame oil and mashed garlic in a bowl. Using a cookie scoop, pinch off round balls of dough and flatten each ball in the palm of your hand; place a generous teaspoon of shrimp mince on the flattened ball and enclose the ball completely, rolling it between the palm of your hands.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, lower the heat and drop a few rice balls at a time; let them simmer for 3 to 4 minutes until the balls are heavy and cooked. Remove and drain and coat in shredded coconut.
- When all the balls have been coated in coconut, garnish with slivers of cilantro leaves and freshly grated orange rind and serve.
Recipe based on Chef Bruno Viala’s Perles de coco et gambas, adapted