Balls of Joy is a nickname a friend of ours gave the sweet potato balls they sell at a stall at Maxwell hawker center. This is Maxwell. Somewhere in there (there are 3 rows like this) is the sweet potato ball stand.
Unfortunately we don't have a single picture of a sweet potato ball, which is shocking considering how often we like to photograph our food and how often we like to enjoy sweet potato balls. They are deep fried balls of sweet potato that are light and chewy and slightly sweet and really smooth and awesome and... joyful. We discovered them during the Eat-a-Thon. They have a die-die-must-try rating in the Makansutra.
The extremely sad news is that for the past few weeks, the sweet potato ball stand has been closed. We don't know why. In light of a real shortage of sweet potato balls--you know where this is going, don't you?--we decided to learn to make them ourselves.
Turns out, learning how to make something you can't even adequately describe is tough. Especially since it likely involves ingredients you've never used before and may not even know exist. Namely: Glutinous Rice Flour. Thankfully, I figured out early on that this was necessary after searching the internet. I couldn't find a sweet potato ball recipe, but I did come to the conclusion that Asian "ball" deserts were likely made with this stuff. And of course "glutinous" sounded promising for the chewy and smooth center we were hoping for.
Attempt #1: The very first attempt was on Thursday night. I (foolishly) thought I'd whip some up before DG and bring them to surprise our small group. I used yellow Japanese sweet potatoes which wasn't right. And there was a sugar casualty.
These ended up being Balls of General Pleasantness (as much as deep fried potato is pleasant), but they were nothing like the target.
Attempt #2-7: We decided that a joint effort was called for, so today Kyle and I went all out in pursuit of Sweet Potato Ball goodness--three and a half hours of recipe testing! (according to the time stamp on our pictures). We started with orange sweet potatoes.
We tested three different sweet potato to rice flour ratios, and tweaked these with sugar and salt.
We compared taste and texture.
Once we decided on the best ratio, we tested frying time based on size and texture.
We took lots of notes (like any good scientists would when doing experiments).
We ended up with a lot of discarded samples.
And we probably consumed more oil than is legally allowed. We're not there yet. But we are closer than we were.