Sweet red bean paste encased in a fragrant sesame-crusted mochi shell, these sesame balls are a traditional Chinese dessert perfect for the lunar new year.
What is a sesame ball?
Sesame balls, also known as jiānduī (煎䭔) in Cantonese or zhīma qiú (芝麻球) in Mandarin, is a traditional Chinese treat made from glutinous rice flour, sesame seeds and some sort of sweet filling. They're fried to golden brown crispy perfection, with a soft and chewy mochi-like texture that complements the smooth paste in the centre.
Growing up these were a staple at any Asian bakery, and I have memories of enjoying them as a treat or grabbing them fresh off a yum cha cart. There is something so irresistible about a sweet deep-fried treat!
The most popular filling for these is red bean paste, however, there are also ones filled with lotus seed paste. Either make your own or buy some pre-made pastes for an easy cooking experience. Personally, I love making my own filling because you can adjust the sweetness to your preference, and it tastes SO much better.
Creating red bean paste
If you are in a rush for time feel free to buy red bean paste from the Asian grocery, That way you only have to make the dough, and then you're ready to fry! However, making your own red bean paste is always worth it. Homemade red bean paste has more texture and flavour, with the freedom of making it as sweet as you like. The process is a little time-consuming, but most of the time is letting the beans boil over the stovetop, so give it a go! Here are some tips for the perfect red bean paste...
Cook the beans until they are super soft
Having slightly undercooked red beans is the worst for red bean paste as it will turn out grainy. When cooking your red beans make sure they are easily mashable between your fingers before taking them off the stove and draining.
Top up the water
As the beans boil for a long period of time the water will evaporate as they cook. Make sure the beans are always submerged in water so they cook evenly and don't burn. Simply top the water up with some boiling water every time your notice the water levels are low.
Cook until thickened
Once you have drained your beans and added the sugar the most important step is thickening it to a paste that is thick enough to be rolled into balls. If you have cooked your beans for a long time they can absorb more water and this process may take longer than the time stated on the recipe. Keep a close eye on the red bean paste and stir constantly over medium-high heat. The paste is ready when it can come together to form a mound.
The paste will be a lot softer when warm, and you'll have difficulty shaping it at this stage. Make sure the red bean paste has chilled completely before rolling it into balls.
Tips for perfect sesame balls
Sesame balls can be a little finicky... The biggest problem when making sesame balls is keeping the sesame seeds from falling off when frying. With these tips, you shouldn't have any problems creating these beautiful golden brown treats!
Adjust the moisture of the dough
The texture of the dough can change depending on your climate, and you may need to use more glutinous rice flour or more water depending on the texture of your dough. The texture of the dough should resemble an earlobe, it should be soft but it shouldn't be sticking. If you find the dough too wet add a little more glutinous rice flour, and if you find it too dry and crumbly add more water.
Roll the balls in water
Rolling the sesame balls in water is important to help the sesame seeds stick onto the dough. Without it, a lot of the seeds would fall off during the frying process. This process is also important to prevent the sesame seeds from browning excessively. As sesame seeds have a small surface area they would cook faster than the dough, so they have the tendency to burn. The water adds moisture to the seeds and helps them from browning too quickly.
Pack on the sesame seeds
Once you've rolled the balls in the sesame seeds hold them in between your palms and firmly press the sesame seeds into the dough. Then roll the ball between your palms to further secure the seeds, while shaping the dough. This provides extra security for the sesame seeds before they're fried.
Fry on a low temperature first
Frying the sesame balls at a lower temperature first is super important. This first slow fry cooks the mochi dough without burning the sesame seeds and exterior. Make sure you keep turning the balls as they fry so they expand to an even round shape.
Increase the temperature at the end
The increase in temperature at the end of the frying process gives the balls that golden brown colour and crispy texture. Keep an eye on the temperature as they can burn quite quickly!
Frequently asked questions
How long do these last?
These are best eaten fresh, or on the day they're made. However, these can last up to 4 days when stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Make sure you toast them in the oven or air fryer before eating!
Can I fill them with something else?
Of course! The traditional fillings may be red bean or lotus paste, but there are so many other fun fillings ranging from sweet potato paste to custards. Feel free to play around with it!
My sesame seeds are falling off
If the sesame seeds haven't been secured properly they will fall off during the frying process. Make sure you have rolled the balls in water before coating them in sesame seeds. Also, rolling the sesame seed coated balls between your palms will help further secure them.
My dough is very sticky
The dough is very dependent on your environment and climate. If it's humid the dough will be a lot wetter, and vice versa. The simple fix is just to add a little more glutinous rice flour.
Let's Get Frying!
With the lunar new year coming up these will be the perfect treat to serve your guests, or just for yourself!
If you liked this recipe make sure to leave me a comment and rating down below, I would love to know how you went.
Also, don't forget to tag me on Instagram @catherine.desserts and hashtag #cattycakes so I can see and share your desserts. Follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, and TikTok for more of my baking creations and updates! Until next time... happy caking!Print
Red Bean Sesame Balls
Sweet red bean paste encased in a fragrant sesame-crusted mochi shell, a traditional Chinese dessert perfect for the lunar new year.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 90 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours
- Yield: 12 Balls 1x
- Category: Mochi
- Method: Intermediate
- Cuisine: Chinese
Red Bean Paste
- 100g Adzuki beans (3.5oz)
- 90g Brown sugar (½ cup)
- 130g Glutinous rice flour (1 cup)
- 65g White sugar (⅓ cup)
- 120g Boiling water (½ cup)
- 1 tbsp Vegetable oil
- 95g White sesame seeds (⅔ cup)
- 250g Water (1 cup)
- Vegetable oil, for frying
Red Bean Paste
- Fill a medium saucepan with water and add the adzuki beans
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 60-90 minutes, or until the beans are easily mashed between your fingers
- Drain the beans and return them to the saucepan
- Add the brown sugar and heat over medium--high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has melted
- Continue to cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring, until the mixture has thickened to a thick paste (it should be able to form a small mound)
- Remove from the heat, and chill in the fridge until firm
- Once chilled divide the paste into 12 balls and reserve in the fridge until assembly
- Combine the glutinous rice flour and sugar in a heatproof bowl
- Add the boiling water and mix until a shaggy dough forms, then use your hands to knead the dough
- Add the vegetable oil and continue to knead until a smooth dough
- (The dough may be drier or sticker depending on your climate- add more flour or less water to create a dough that is soft but not sticky, it should have the texture of an earlobe)
- Cover with cling wrap and rest for 30 minutes
- Uncover the rested dough and divide it into 12 balls
- Flatten a portion of dough between your palms and place a ball of red bean paste in the centre
- Pull the sides of the dough over to enclose the filling and roll it between your palms to form a smooth ball
- Place it on a baking tray lined with baking paper and repeat with the remaining dough and filling
- Place the sesame seeds in a small bowl and the water in another
- Submerge each ball in the water, then roll in the sesame seeds
- Roll the sesame seed coated ball between your palms to secure the seeds and repeat
- Heat a heavy-bottomed pot of vegetable oil to 150C/300F
- Add 4-5 sesame balls in the oil and fry, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes
- Increase the heat to 180C/350F and cook for 2-3 mins until golden brown
- Remove from the oil and drain on a wire rack or paper towel
- Repeat with the remaining sesame balls then enjoy!
Keywords: mochi, red bean paste, jian dui, zi ma qiu, chinese sesame balls