Taiwanese “Meat ball” (Bawan)


Bawan is the quintessential Taiwanese street snack. Steamed or fried, it literally means “meat ball” and is a dumpling of sorts filled with meat, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms. The semi-translucent chewy outside is made with rice flour and sweet potato flour, giving it this unique texture that’s super fun to eat.

Taiwanese-style Bawan
This recipe is adapted from Homestyle Cooking of Taiwan by members of NATWA
For a printer-friendly version of the recipe please click here.

Long Grain Rice FlourOuter Covering
 8 T long grain rice flour (see picture at right)
12 T sweet potato flour
5 2/3 cups water
1 lb sweet potato flour

2 T vegetable oil
2 bunches of scallions, chopped

11 dried black mushrooms
1 lb pork tenderloin, sliced (or ground pork)
1 can (8 oz) bamboo shoots (sliced)
1 lb shrimp (about 22)
3 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
Sweet Chili Sauce1 T salt
1 tsp pepper
Sauce (sweet rice paste)
1 cup long grain rice flour
3 cups waster
1/2 cup sugar

Cilantro, chopped
Soy sauce
optional: sweet chili sauce (see picture at right)

Precooking preparations:
1.  If you purchased fresh shrimp, devein the shrimp, remove heads and tails.  I bought one pound of raw frozen shrimp, so I just defrosted it and removed the tails.

2Soak dried mushrooms in hot water until soft (about 10 minutes), and cut each one in half

Making the Covering
1.  In a large pot, combine the long grain rice flour, 12 T of sweet potato flour, and water.
2.  Cook at high heat, stirring CONTINUALLY!
3. After it has come to a boil, remove from heat and let cool.
4.  Add 1 lb of sweet potato flour and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.

Making the filling
1.  Heat wok at high heat and add the vegetable oil.
2.  Stir fry the scallions and the mushrooms briefly for about a minute.
3.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir fry until the meat appears done (shrimp turns pink, pork is opaque)
4.  Add flavoring agents (soy sauce, sugar, salt, and pepper).  Mix thoroughly

From top left, left to right: 1. Chopped scallions & mushroom 2. Saute scallions & mushrooms first in hot wok!  3.  Add meat and bamboo 4. First step in making the bawans – put on a cabbage or napa leaf!

Constructing the Bawan
You have 22 pieces of shrimp, 22 mushroom halves.  This is no accident.  You will fill each dough piece with one piece of shrimp, one mushroom, and a little bit of bamboo and pork. Warning, this stuff is really sticky!  It sort of has the consistency of gooey paste.  I find it’s a bit easier to work with if you hold the bawan on top of a cabbage leaf (see pictures above).  It’s easier to handle the gooey paste if you wet your fingers constantly.  I ended up putting a plate full of water nearby just so I could constantly wet my fingers.

Bawan Collage 2From top left, left to right: 1. Second step in making bawans – add filling! 2. Third step – cover with dough 3.  White, gloppy paste-like bawan covering 4.  Bawans resting, not yet steamed

1. Put a circular dollop of dough onto a leaf. Using wet fingers, push in the middle a bit for the filling.
2. Add the filling (1 shrimp, 1/2 mushroom, etc)
3. Put another smaller dollop of dough on top
4. Using wet fingers, try to pinch the edges together to form a ball
5. Set aside

Cooking the Bawans
Steam bawans in a 2-tiered steamer.  Ideally, you would have a multi-layer Chinese bamboo steamer.  However, if you don’t, a normal steamer works fine too.  I just lined the steamer with cabbage leaves and placed the bawans on top.

Steam for about 10 minutes.

Steaming Bawans

 Bawans about to be steamed  . . . nooooo!!!! Save us!

Making the Sweet Rice Paste Sauce
1.  combine long grain rice flour, water, and sugar in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil (remember to stir!) and then remove from heat. 

Garnishing the Bawans
 For each bawan, add a bit of soy sauce (about 1 tsp), cover with some sweet white paste sauce, and garnish with cilantro.  If you have access to sweet chile sauce, you can use that as well.


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  1. says

    i love bawan! i can’t believe you made these from scratch..i’m in awe haha. i’ve only had these a few times in my life and they are such a treat. love it with the sweet chili sauce

  2. says

    I’ve never heard of sweet potato flour. I’ll have to look more into it!

    Seems like a lot of work to make on an occasional basis at home but I can tell the end result is totally worth it. Really enjoying these recent Taiwanese posts! Thanks so much!

  3. says

    wow! you made your own? that’s awesome.. i’ve seen some that are more translucent.. maybe that’s more corn starch? the sauce totally makes it!

  4. Roxit says

    Someone recommended your site and this bawan recipe is what I have been looking for. I am from Taiwan and my wife is Caucasian. I did not know how to describe this dish to her. I guess Taiwanese Meatball will have to do. There is another dish that is a street vendor dish. It is a sweet riceball, about size of mango but they put stuffing inside, but it is eaten like a dessert.

  5. mimi l says

    This is my favorite food to eat when we visit family in Taiwan. I have not been able to find an authentic tasting Taiwanese meatball in any restaurants here-they seem to be gamey tasting. Perhaps they were frozen and not freshly made. I am so happy to find this recipe. Thank you!

  6. lea escarmosa says

    hi can you pls help me to find the reciepe of chicken in taiwan. they call it chipay. in the street of taiwan you can find that fried chicken. thanks and i always  read your blog and i learned a lot of things her.. have a goo.
    d day and god bless you

  7. jentinyurbankitchen says

    Hi lea,
    Unfortunately I have never made the particular fried chicken you are talking about. I think the spice mix that they use is available in Taiwan, but I can’t remember the name of it!
    Best of luck, and sorry I couldn’t help more!

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