I’ve loved deep-fried sesame balls since I was a kid. We purchased them from Chinatown bakeries and plucked them hot off the dim sum carts, which were already cut in half for easy sharing.
They’re fried until crisp on the outside and chewy and soft on the inside, and the dough is made from sticky rice flour. They’re filled with a sweet paste and rolled in sesame seeds.
Their Mandarin name is zhīma qiú. My friend’s parents and grandparents all called them maqiú. Jin dui was the name my Cantonese relatives used for them. No matter what you call them, no one can resist these tasty morsels.
Sesame Balls: What’s Inside Them?
Lotus seed paste, like that found in some mooncakes but softer, was a popular filling when I was a kid.
Red bean sesame balls may have recently surpassed lotus paste in popularity, but I’ll always favor the classic lotus paste, so that’s what I used in this recipe. Lotus paste can be purchased ready-made, or you can make it at home using our recipe.
However, red bean paste can be found in stores or made with my friend’s versatile recipe.
When we were in China, we ate a huge sesame ball. Extremely crisp on the outside and hollow within. An outstanding demonstration of culinary skill.
The Process of Creating Our Squishy Sesame Ball Recipe
There are no words to express how excited I am to try this recipe. Finally, we got it right after a lot of trial and error with the dough, the sticking power of the sesame seeds, and the length of time in the deep fryer. I haven’t found a better sesame ball recipe than this one.
This will hit the spot if you don’t have easy access to Chinese food like dim sum or baked goods.
Despite the apparent ease of the ingredients and procedures, I must stress that you will need time and effort to perfect your results. If you want a successful and safe attempt at making these at home, follow the recipe exactly as written.
At first, I tried both regular rice flour and glutinous rice flour in my experiments. Some batches were as tough as golf balls! For example, if you teed them up and hit them with your nine iron, they would likely travel 100 yards.
Problems were resolved using sugar, boiling water (which softens the dough and allows it to stretch and expand during frying), and other methods.
Another issue I had was exploding balls from using baking powder and other leavening agents at high temperatures. There was a lot of mess and danger involved in creating new recipes.
- 1 1/2 cups of glutinous rice flour (divided)
- 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup of boiling water
- 1/4 cup of room temperature water (add another 1 tablespoon)
- 7 oz. of lotus paste or red bean paste
- 1/4 cup of sesame seeds (raw or toasted)
- 4 cups of peanut or vegetable oil
- Pick a filling if you like options Either visit an Asian or Chinese supermarket to pick up pre-made filling pastes, or try making your own with our recipes for lotus paste and red bean paste. We made use of lotus paste.
- Prepare the dough for the sesame balls. Put the sugar and 1/2 cup (60g) of glutinous rice flour in a bowl. Stir the sugar and flour with 1/4 cup (60 g) of boiling water. Use a rubber spatula to combine the ingredients. The recommended waiting time is 5 minutes. Mix the remaining glutinous flour and 14 cups plus 1 tablespoon (70g) of warm water (1 cup, 120g). Use a spatula to stir until it comes together as a dough and the flour is completely incorporated. Put it in a reusable silicone bag or cover it with an inverted plate. Put aside 30 minutes of downtime.
- Put the sesame seeds in a fine-meshed strainer and water them until they’re completely soaked. Spread the sesame seeds on a plate to dry and allow the excess water to drain. Lay them out flat and give yourself plenty of room to roll the sesame balls in between. If the sesame seeds are extremely wet, you can dry them with a paper towel. They need to be moist but not drenched.
- Make sure that your filling weighs about as much as half of your dough ball. Use a kitchen scale to weigh 8 servings of lotus or red bean paste at 24g each. Make little balls with it and put it aside.
- With a digital kitchen scale, measure the weight of the dough ball; it should be between 370 and 380 grams. Subtract your weight in kilograms from eight to get the weight of each dough ball (in our case, we got 47g). Divide the dough into 8 pieces, weigh them, and then roll them into balls. Make sure they don’t dry out by covering the plate you set them on while they sit.
- The dough ball should be about 3 inches in diameter before assembly, with a slightly thicker center. Put 1 filling ball in the middle of the dough and wrap it up. With your fingers, pinch the dough together to form a uniform layer over the filling. When the sesame ball is sealed, pinch off a small amount of extra dough to use as needed to fill in any gaps or thicken up any areas that look too thin.
- Once the filling has been completely enveloped, roll it into a ball by pressing it between your palms until the seams disappear and you have a uniform sphere.
- The ball should be rolled into the wet sesame seeds until completely covered. When ready to deep-fry, transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and give it one last roll in your hands to press the sesame seeds into the dough.
- In a medium-deep pot, heat 4 cups of peanut or canola oil to a consistent 320 degrees Fahrenheit, or 160 degrees Celsius. (A thermometer will be helpful here, as getting the oil to the right temperature is crucial.) Halfway up the pot is where you want to stop adding oil.
- To keep the sesame balls from sinking to the bottom of the pan after being dropped in with a slotted spoon, gently stir them in a circular motion right away. This must be done repeatedly throughout the process to guarantee uniform cooking. Take care not to abandon them. When you add the sesame balls, the oil temperature will drop below 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius), but it shouldn’t go below 290 degrees Fahrenheit (143 degrees Celsius). The oil temperature should be around 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius), so you may need to raise or lower the heat slightly.
- The sesame balls will rise to the surface of the oil after 10 minutes. Now you need to adjust your method so that all sides of the food are fried at the same rate. The sesame balls can be kept submerged in oil by pressing them down with a slotted spoon or tiny spider every so often. Maintain this position for a minute or two.
- Now is the time to crank up the heat and slowly raise the oil temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add another 5 minutes to the frying time, totaling 17–18 minutes. They should be a pale golden color at this point. This final, higher-temperature frying phase is what browns them. Increased oil temperature will cause the sesame balls to grow in size. As long as there are no holes or weak spots in the dough, the outer crust should be sturdy enough to prevent them from exploding.
- After cooking, transfer the sesame balls to a cooling rack or a plate covered with paper towels to soak up the oil. The same procedure should be used for the second set. Wait 10 minutes, then serve.