Sesame balls, also known as Jian Dui (煎堆) or Ma Tuan (麻团) in Chinese, are a popular and traditional Chinese dessert. These golden-brown delights are often found in dim sum restaurants and Chinese bakeries in the US here. The basic structure of Chinese sesame balls involves a glutinous rice flour dough that is filled with various sweet fillings, rolled in sesame seeds, and then deep-fried until golden brown. They have a unique combination of flavors and textures—crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and sweet from the filling.
Making Chinese sesame balls at home provides you with an opportunity for customization and creativity. It is a fun way for you to enjoy this traditional Chinese dessert. Read on for more about this sesame balls recipe!
Glutinous rice flour: Glutinous rice flour, also known as sweet rice flour, is the main ingredient for the dough. It has a high starch content, which gives the dough its sticky and chewy texture when cooked. It is the key ingredient for creating the signature chewiness of sesame balls.
Baking powder: A small amount of baking powder is a leavening agent that helps the dough rise and become lighter during the frying process. It adds a bit of fluffiness to the texture of the dough, preventing the dough from becoming overly dense.
Sugar: Sugar adds sweetness to the dough itself. Additionally, sugar helps in achieving a golden brown color during deep frying.
Hot water: Hot water is used to bind the dough ingredients together. It also helps the dough shape easily and encase the sweet filling without cracking.
Roasted white sesame seeds: Roasted sesame seeds add a distinct and toasty flavor to the sesame balls. You can use hulled or unhulled sesame seeds.
Oil: for deep frying
Sweet red bean paste: The filling inside the sesame balls can vary, but it is commonly made with sweet ingredients, as below. I used red bean paste as the filling. Other common filling options include black sesame paste, peanut butter, lotus seed paste, mung bean paste..etc.
In a large bowl, mix glutinous rice flour, baking powder, and sugar. Gradually add hot water while stirring until a smooth dough forms.
Divide the dough into equal portions and roll them into dough balls. Then, flatten each ball with your palms of your hands.
Add sweet red bean paste filling to each piece of dough. Next, roll each piece back into a round ball. Dip each filled dough ball into water and then dip them into white sesame seeds until well coated.
Heat cooking oil to medium-low heat in a deep pot. Make sure to add the sesame balls to the pot while the oil is still heating up.
Carefully fry the sesame balls until they turn a beautiful golden brown. During the deep frying process, frequently use a slotted spoon to gently massage the sesame balls in a circular motion. You can also gently push the sesame balls down using a slotted spoon or spatula. This will make sure the sesame balls are evenly cooked.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil. Allow the sesame balls to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy!
Tips and tricks: frying to perfection
Making perfect Chinese sesame balls requires attention to detail and technique. Here are some pro tips to help you achieve the best results:
- When forming the dough balls, make sure they are uniform in size. This ensures even cooking.
- Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap while working to prevent it from drying out. Dry dough can crack when frying.
- Roll the dough balls in your hands to create a smooth surface. Any cracks or imperfections can lead to oil seeping into the balls during frying.
- Maintain a consistent oil temperature. Too hot, and the outside will brown quickly while the inside remains undercooked. Too cold, and the balls may absorb too much oil.
- Gently turn the sesame balls in the hot oil to ensure they cook evenly on all sides. Pushing the sesame balls down during the frying process is a technique used to ensure even cooking and browning on all sides. This step is particularly important because sesame balls tend to float in the oil as they cook, and if left unchecked, one side may not cook or brown as well as the others. Be cautious to avoid splashing hot oil.
Serving and pairing suggestions
Sesame balls are a delicious treat with a crispy exterior and a sweet, chewy interior. Here are some delightful ways to enjoy sesame balls, along with some pairing suggestions:
- As a snack: Enjoy sesame balls on their own as a sweet and satisfying snack. The combination of the crispy shell and the sweet filling makes them a delightful treat.
- Tea time sweet treat: Pair sesame balls with your favorite tea for a delightful afternoon snack. Green tea, jasmine tea, or oolong tea work well to balance the sweetness of the sesame balls.
- Dim sum style: Enjoy sesame balls alongside savory dim sum dishes for a well-rounded meal. The contrast between sweet and savory can be very satisfying.
- Pairing with hot drinks: Enjoy sesame balls with a cup of hot ginger tea or hot soy milk. The warmth of the beverage complements the crispy exterior and chewy interior of the sesame balls.
Storing and reheating options
Sesame balls are best enjoyed fresh right after frying when they are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. However, if you have leftover sesame balls, you can either refrigerate or freeze them.
- If you plan to consume the sesame balls within the same day, you can store them at room temperature in an airtight container.
- For longer storage, place the sesame balls in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator. They can be stored for up to 2-3 days.
- For the freezer option, you can place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or airtight container.
- To reheat the leftover sesame balls, preheat your oven or toaster oven to around 350°F (175°C). Heat them for about 10-15 minutes or until they are heated through, and the exterior becomes crispy again. You can also use the air fryer to reheat them for 5-7 minutes at the same temperatures.
From the initial mix of sticky rice flour to the satisfying crunch of the golden exterior and the burst of sweetness from the red bean paste filling, sesame balls are the perfect combination of texture and taste. Now, you've successfully crafted authentic sesame balls! Whether you enjoy them alone or experiment with various pairings, these golden-brown sesame balls will surely become your new favorite! Let me know how yours turns out by leaving comments below. Happy cooking!
Authentic Sesame Balls Recipe: Red Bean Paste Filling
- In a large bowl, mix glutinous rice flour, baking powder, and sugar.
- Gradually add hot water while stirring until a smooth dough forms.
- Divide the dough into equal portions and roll them into dough balls. Then, flatten each ball with your palms of your hands.
- Add sweet red bean paste filling to each piece of dough. Next, roll each piece back into a round ball.
- Dip each filled dough ball into water and then dip them into white sesame seeds until well coated.
- Heat cooking oil to medium-low heat in a deep pot. Make sure to add the sesame balls to the pot while the oil is still heating up.
- Carefully fry the sesame balls until they turn a beautiful golden brown. During the deep frying process, frequently use a slotted spoon to gently massage the sesame balls in a circular motion. You can also gently push the sesame balls down using a slotted spoon or spatula. This will make sure the sesame balls are evenly cooked.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil.
- Allow the sesame balls to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy!