These sesame-coated glutinous rice balls are crunchy on the outside, with a chewy, subtly sweet lotus seed paste center. They hold a special place in my heart because my maternal grandma used to make them and always had some in the house. When I was a child, I would spend time with my grandma while my parents were at work. These sesame balls were our go-to snack because they were not only affordable but also soft and easy to eat. What makes this recipe even more appealing is that it requires fewer than six ingredients and is budget-friendly. I’ll share some tips to ensure your batch turns out perfectly every time!
What are sesame balls?
Sesame balls (jian du, zhima zhou, buchi, bánh cam, onde-onde) crispy and chewy treats made from glutinous rice flour, sugar, water, and oil. They are rice balls coated in sesame seeds and deep-fried to achieve a crispy, golden exterior. When you bite into a sesame ball, you’ll experience a combination of textures—a chewy and subtly sweet center, reminiscent of mochi. These sesame balls feature lotus seed paste. If you prefer a sesame ball without filling, you can refer to my Sesame Balls recipe!
It was my maternal grandma, whom I called Ah Po, who first introduced me to sesame balls. I have vivid memories of her preparing these treats at home for my sister and I to snack on when we were children. On lazier days, she would simply purchase them from the Chinatown. Ah Po always preferred the sesame balls filled with red bean paste. Her nurturing nature extended beyond her words, reaching me through the comforting flavors of her cooking.
What is lotus seed paste?
Lotus seed paste is a sweet and dense filling with a color that bears a slight resemblance to caramel. It is created by grinding lotus seeds into a smooth consistency and has a subtle, nutty flavor. If you’ve ever tried a mooncake, chances are you’ve already experienced the taste of lotus seed paste. This filling is a central component of mooncakes, which are traditional Chinese pastries closely associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Why This Works
In this post, I’m excited to share my Ah Po’s recipe for sesame balls with you! Each bite reveals a satisfyingly chewy center, with a hint of sweetness that is very comparable to mochi. This recipe stands out due to its simplicity, requiring six ingredients and costing just $10. It offers great versatility, allowing for various fillings like red bean, lotus seed, green bean, or black sesame to be incorporated. If you love this recipe, you might also love my Egg Tart, Salted Egg Yolk Custard Buns (Liusha Bao), Air Fried Sesame Balls, Black Sesame Balls, and Sesame Balls without filling.
How do you prepare sesame balls with filling?
Prepare the dough by dissolving sugar in water over medium-high heat in a pan. Make sure that the sugar is completely melted. In a large bowl, combine the glutinous rice flour with the sugar water. The sugar water can be added in when it is hot or tepid. Mix until the consistency is clumpy.
Continue mixing with a spatula or knead your hands, until the dough forms a soft and smooth ball. Add one teaspoon of oil into the dough and mix until uniform. The dough should have a smooth and malleable texture, without any sagging. It should not feel excessively wet or sticky to the touch.
Afterward, divide the dough into six equal pieces and shape them into round balls. If you prefer sesame balls that are crispier with a thinner shell, you can divide the dough into eight pieces. Keep in mind that dividing it into eight pieces will yield thinner exteriors making it slightly more challenging to fry. It’s important to ensure that all the sesame balls are similar in size. This way, they will fry evenly and at the same temperature, resulting in a consistent and delicious outcome!
Cut open the bag of paste. Divide the paste into halves, then divide one of the halves into six equal portions, making sure that each piece weighs 1 oz each. Shape each piece of filling into a round ball. Be sure to clean your hands before handling the white sesame ball dough.
Now, take one of the dough balls and flatten it in your hands. Place one of the shaped filling balls in the center of the flattened dough. Carefully bring the edges of the dough together and pinch them to seal the filling inside.
Roll these filled dough balls generously in sesame seeds, making sure they are coated all around. Repeat until all sesame balls are completed.
How do you prepare sesame balls without filling?
Making sesame balls without any filling is a simpler process compared to frying filled ones, yet they are still very delicious. If you’re interested in making unfilled sesame balls, you can refer to my Sesame Balls recipe.
How do you fry sesame balls?
To make sesame balls successfully, pay attention to the oil temperature. If oil is too hot, it can cause the sesame balls to expand too rapidly and burst. First, make sure the oil temperature is around 250°F / 111°C. I recommend using a probe thermometer to make sure since oil can overheat very quickly. You can even use that point and shoot thermometer that is sitting in your cabinets from the pandemic.
If the oil gets too hot, the sesame balls will expand too quickly and burst or burn without getting a chance to cook through. Once the oil is at the right temperature, put the sesame balls into the pan and fry them over low heat. Cooking them over low heat allows them to cook evenly and prevents them from burning.
They should be continuously flipped until they start to float, approximately 10 minutes. Once they float, take turns pushing each sesame ball down submerging it in the hot oil, approximately 20 minutes. This step is going to help the sesame balls expand and round out. Continue until they turn golden brown. Then drain on a paper towel.
What type of oil can you use to fry sesame balls?
When frying food, opt for a neutral oil like avocado, vegetable, or peanut oil. It is important to note that canola oil may not be the best choice due to health concerns associated with its consumption for both adults and children.
Please keep in mind that glutinous rice dough has a tendency to absorb flavors from the oil it’s fried in. For instance, if you use oil that was previously used for frying chicken or fish, the sesame balls will inherit those flavors. To achieve the best taste and results, use either fresh oil or oil that is exclusively reserved from previously frying sesame balls. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the frying oil for sesame balls can be strained and reused multiple times.
How do you air fry sesame balls?
It’s worth noting that when frying sesame balls, only a minimal amount of oil is absorbed into the pastries. Additionally, once the sesame balls are cooked, you can place them on a paper towel to allow any excess oil to be absorbed, which is very effective at reducing the oil content.
If you’re not a fan of using oil, sesame balls can be air fried! Air frying is a cooking method that uses hot air circulation to cook food, similar to deep frying but with significantly less oil. It results in a crispy texture while reducing the overall fat content. You can refer to my Air Fried Sesame Balls recipe.
Can I store sesame balls?
Unfortunately, sesame balls should not be stored. They need to be consumed on the same day they are made. I’ve experimented with air frying and microwaving them 24 hours later, but neither method yields satisfactory results. Air frying tends to make them excessively stale, while microwaving causes them to become soft, compromising their crunchiness. When air frying sesame balls that have a filling, it can be challenging to evenly heat the filling without risking overcooking the exterior. As a result, the filling often remains cool in the process.
Additionally, it’s crucial to prepare them just before cooking to avoid the glutinous rice dough from drying out. If it becomes dry, the exterior may crack and burst during the frying process.
What is glutinous rice flour?
Glutinous rice flour is a type of flour made from a specific variety of rice known as glutinous or sticky rice. Unlike regular rice flour, it contains a higher amount of starch, which gives it its characteristic stickiness when cooked. This flour is commonly used in various Asian cuisines to make dishes like dumplings, noodles, and desserts. Its sticky nature helps provide a chewy texture to the final product.
One common question I receive is whether alternative flours can be used for this recipe. Unfortunately, the answer is no. It’s crucial to avoid using all-purpose flour or regular rice flour as substitutes because they have distinct characteristics. The specific brand of glutinous rice flour I use is called Erawan Glutinous Rice Flour, which is a Thai variety. It is approximately $2.59 for a 1 lb bag in my region. With this amount, you can make three batches of sesame balls, yielding at least 18 pieces. I advise against using different brands of glutinous rice flour because the water measurements may vary. To ensure consistent results, it’s best to stick with the recommended brand as specified in the recipe.
What types of filling can you use in sesame balls?
Sesame balls are not only popular in Chinese cuisine but also widely enjoyed in Filipino, Malaysian, and Vietnamese ones too. In Chinese cuisine, the most commonly used fillings are red bean, lotus seed, or black sesame. When selecting a filling, it is important to choose one that is very firm in texture. Fillings that are too soft or runny can make it difficult to shape the sesame balls and may result in bursting during frying. A firm filling ensures a successful batch.
You can easily find these fillings at a Chinese grocery store or through online Chinese grocery retailers. Look for them in the dry pantry aisle or refrigerated section; I have found them in both places at various supermarkets. Whether you prefer to visit a physical store or shop online, you’ll have convenient access to these delicious fillings to create the perfect sesame balls.
Why did my sesame balls burst?
Sesame balls can develop hollow spaces during frying as they absorb air and expand, like a hot air balloon. If you’re facing issues with bursting sesame balls, consider starting with ones without any fillings, as they tend to be easier to fry compared to filled ones. Sesame balls with fillings are more likely to burst.
To prevent this problem, it’s essential to pay close attention to your oil temperature. Ensure that your oil reaches and maintains a consistent temperature of 250°F (121°C) before frying. Throughout the frying process, aim to keep the oil temperature between 250°F – 280°F (138°C) to minimize the risk of bursting.
Additionally, using the correct ingredients is crucial. You can find photos of the exact ingredient packages I use on my website for reference. For this recipe, substitutions to the glutinous rice flour will not be possible. Lastly, when shaping sesame balls with fillings, strive to maintain an even thickness of the dough throughout the entire sesame ball. Any parts that are significantly thinner are more susceptible to bursting, especially since sesame balls can expand by 2-2.5 times their original size during frying.
Why are my sesame balls pale?
To achieve the desired light golden color, it’s crucial to manage the oil temperature carefully. Here’s how to troubleshoot this issue: Ensure that your cooking oil reaches and consistently stays at 250°F (121°C) before you begin frying the sesame balls. Keep the oil temperature steady at 250°F for the initial 20 minutes of frying. This stable temperature allows the sesame balls to cook evenly and develop a beautiful color without rushing the process. After the initial 20 minutes, gradually increase the oil temperature to 300°F (148°C) for the final 10 minutes of frying. This step helps to give the sesame balls a crisp and golden exterior. Throughout the frying process, pay close attention to the oil temperature. By maintaining the correct temperature range, you can minimize the risk of the sesame balls bursting while achieving the desired color.
Sesame Balls with Lotus Seed Paste
- 1 Sauce Pot For Frying
- 1 Pan
- 1 Medium Sized Bowl
- 1 Spatula
- 1 Cooking Thermometer
- 1 Sieve or Slotted Spoon
- A little less than 1/2 cup (110 mL) water
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 1/4 cup glutinous rice flour
- 1 tsp neutral oil
- 6 oz store-bought lotus seed paste
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds
- 1 pint neutral oil for frying
- Heat up a pot on the stove over low heat and pour in a pint of oil. Let it heat up until it’s hot.
- On a pan over medium-high heat, mix the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
- In a big bowl, mix glutinous rice flour with the sugar water which may be added in at any temperature. Mix until it’s clumpy, then add in 1 tsp of oil.
- Use your hands to knead it into a smooth, firm dough ball. It shouldn’t be too saggy. The perfect texture of a sesame ball dough before it is fried should be smooth, elastic, and firm but not too dry or too soft.
- If the dough sags, add glutinous rice flour to the dough ball 1/4 teaspoon at a time until it is firm but not too dry.
- Split the dough into 6 pieces and roll them into spheres.
- Divide the filling into 1 oz portions. Roll them into spheres.
- Add a piece of dough to your palm and flatten it with your other hand.
- Place a piece of filling in the center, pinch the edges together, and roll it into a sphere.
- Toss it in sesame seeds. Repeat for the rest of the dough.
- When the oil in the pot hits 250°F / 111°C, toss in the sesame balls. Flip continuously until they float, 10 mins.
- Then, take turns submerging the balls in the hot oil with a sieve.
- After the initial 20 minutes, gradually increase the oil temperature to 300°F / 148°C for the final 10 minutes of frying.
- They should look round and light golden brown. Transfer them onto paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve while warm and enjoy same day!If you've tried this recipe, please let me know what you think in the comments below! And if you enjoyed it, don't forget to give it a thumbs up or share it with your friends! You can help my channel by tagging @vocabularyoffood in your cooks. ۶(◠ 。◠)۶