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May 20, 2007 05:25 PM

Taiwanese Meat Ball

A Taiwan meatball is really some sort of dumpling, right?

I had my first one today after practically having to beg them to sell it to me ... "you won't like it" ... it looked like the picture in this link and the description is almost identical.

"Taiwanese Meat Ball [a glutinuous rice cake wrapping itself around braised dried shitake and beef cubes drizzled with an orange tasting sauce]"

Someone else ordered the meat ball from the same restaurant and the exact descripion is “ … steamed thick rice skin with bamboo, sliced pork and mushroom fillings. the skin was very light and chewy and the filling very flavorfull. and they dress it with both a soy and sweet garlic sauce"

Except I got a tomato sauce on it ... sort of like Campbell's tomato soup without the salt.

I am guessing that these can be any kind of dumpling as searching around I found various pictures ...

They did not look anything like what a common meatball as in this picture

What would be the Chinese name for these?

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  1. The name of the dish is called "Ba Wan" 肉圓, or Taiwanese for the words "meat ball". Like you've noticed, it is not the meat ball in the traditional sense. It is more like a flat dumpling. It is a very common Taiwanese street food, similar to Rou Geng and Mi Fen (rice vermicelli) or Er Ah Jian (oyster pancake). It is very rare in the bay area however.

    I think Ay Chung noodle probably has it, and I've tried the version at Taste Good in Milpitas, but it was not good. The outer skin is very thick and Q, with savory pork/mushroom/bamboo shoot fillings. It is steamed first and eat as is, or in the famous Taiwanese version found in Hsinchu, it is deep fried in oil.

    (the first flickr picture and the 3rd picture/changhwa-3 are both the same thing)


    3 Replies
    1. re: tanspace

      The second flickr picture looks like fish balls to me.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        the second one is fish balls "yu wan" (literally fish ball)...for some reason every restaurant ive been to in taiwan that specializes in ba wan, also serves yu wan

        1. re: Lau

          Actually 2nd one is squid balls, hwa ji wan or something like that.

          There is one other type of meatball not pictured, and that is gong wan, more of a Hakkanese pure pork meatball in soup. Hard to describe, but it is/can be superb.

          I agree with tanspace, I've never really had a good Ba Wan in the SF Bay Area.

    2. For what it's worth, you can get Chinese meatballs. Shanghainese Lion's Head is meatballs gently simmered in a delicious brown sauce. Cantonese have them too, I think they're called "steamed pork cake" on some English menus. I know because I once ordered them off a menu written in Chinese and expected cubes of meat, but what I got was a huge platter of what looked like hamburgers (like the last photo you linked to) and tasted a bit like meat loaf. It was quite good but they must have given me at least three pounds.

      1. You can find Korean meatballs also. One variety is this recipe:

        1 Reply
        1. re: hannaone

          Maybe meatballs are like dumplings. Worldwide. I've had ground meat-and-big-ant patties in the Congo. They have them in Mexico (albondingas), though maybe the Spanish brought them.