When Snow Melts, Lily Pearls Unveiled

Lily Pearls

  • Words & Photography / Jo








I always bring one home if I see fresh lily bulbs in the market.

They are often put in a sheltered corner less obvious to shoppers’ eyes. Inside a shallow carton box of sawdust, peeking through the brownish flakes, the white buds look so out of tune among the bright and green; their quiet stillness makes everything else loud. 

It’s sawdust I guess – the seller will first line the bottom of a plastic bag with it from the carton box, place the lily bulb I pick in it and then fill the bag with more of the powdery wood. He will then squeeze the air out, give the bag a twist and then tie a knot to keep the lily bulb in place when travelling home. 

I washed away the sawdust under a running tap, peeling the lily bulb petal after petal; they were dainty with a satin hand feel, in pearly shade of a beaming crescent. Using a knife to handle this little globe isn’t right; you have to rub the tip, gently, in a downward motion with your finger tips to remove a petal, intact pieces of petal. The petals on the outside are larger and carry a bit of soil that will be easily washed away in water. I thought of onions while peeling the lily bulb. The two spheres both grow in layers around its core, yet, when you peel off the onion layer after layer after layer, all you get is tears. 

The closer you get to the core of a lily bulb, the finer the petal will be but since they are petite, they are harder to be peeled. The tiny white petals towards the core are the freshest and can be eaten straight away, crunchy and not at all fibrous. It is a sweet note distilled from patience and tenderness. 

I once watched a documentary, it said lily bulb, the root of the flower, grew deep in the soil on highlands and it would take 5 to 6 years to develop into the size of a fist. When snow starts to melt in spring, lily bulbs have already built up plenty of nutrition. It is the sweetest. 

Some sweetness is perhaps meant to be savoured after the passing of harsh winters endured with patience.

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百合丸子 ( 2 – 3 碗份量) 

新鮮北海道百合 – 製作丸子用 140克
新鮮北海道百合 – 伴食用 15 瓣
木薯粉 80 克
60 毫升
白糖 5克
桂花蜜 1 湯匙
食用水 2 湯匙


  1. 桂花蜜與食水拌勻,備用。
  2. 剝出百合瓣,洗淨瀝水,盡量去除啡色刮損的部分。留下 15 瓣較細嫩的備用,另取 140 克作丸子用。
  3. 140 克百合瓣蒸 10 分鐘至軟身,以叉子壓成蓉,加入白糖拌勻。
  4. 分 3 次加入木薯粉,混和成粗沙粒狀。
  5. 60 毫升水分 3 次加入,拌勻至沒有顆粒後,揉捏成麵糰。
  6. 捏出麵糰,搓成約 1cm 大小的丸子,重覆直至麵糰全部搓成丸子。放進沸水裹煮約 1 分鐘至外層成半透明。
  7. 百合丸子瀝水,與桂花蜜拌和,放上新鮮百合瓣一起食用。

Lily Pearls ( 2 – 3 portions ) 

Fresh Hokkaido Lily Bulbs – for making the pearls 140g
Fresh Hokkaido Lily Bulbs – on side 15 pieces
Topioca Starch 80 g
Water 60 g
White Sugar 5g
Osmanthus Honey 1 tablespoon
Drinking Water 2 tablespoons


  1. Mix the osmanthus honey with drinking water, set aside.
  2. Peel off the lily bulb petals, wash and drain. Remove the brown bits as much as you can. Keep 15 small and delicate petals and take 140g of the petals for making lily pearls.
  3. Steam the 140g of petals for 10 minutes till soft. Mash them with a fork and mix in sugar.
  4. Add the tapioca starch in 3 rounds. Mix well till you get a coarse sandy mixture. 
  5. Add 60ml of water in 3 rounds, mix till you get a smooth lump, and then knead it into a dough.
  6. Take a bit from the dough and roll it into a pearl of about 1cm diameter. Repeat until the dough is turned into pearls. Boil them for about 1 minute till they turn semi-translucent around the outer layer. 
  7. Drain the pearls, mix with the osmanthus honey and enjoy them with fresh lily bulb petals 

Jo Liu

It’s raining outside, crisp and bleak. Three chubby sparrows took shelter on my balcony and I gave them the baguette bits left on my breakfast plate but they flew away. I stayed in, played Damien Rice on vinyl and made apple crumble. Repeat.

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