Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gotta Have Sesame Balls

My daughter Christina is absolutely addicted to sesame balls, the king of the dim sum sweets cart. She can go sesame ball-free for awhile and then she goes on a bender. For a spate of Sundays (the day when a local Chinese place serves dim sum for part of the day), it's "Can we go for dim sum?"

The sesame-encrusted crunchy outside, the soft white curves of sweet and smooth glutinous rice, and then that heart-melting pearl of sweet bean paste in the's heaven.

Can you tell her mother is addicted to them too?

I referenced sesame ball recipes on two great blogs, Dessert First and Flavor Explosions. I also watched a video on making sesame balls. I had the glutinous rice (Mochiko brand), brown sugar, sesame seeds, and water. All I needed to do was pick up some canned red bean paste, which I bought from the local Asian store.

The next time I make these, I am going to try white sugar as I missed the white color of the sesame balls that we get at the local dim sum place, and the brown sugar was a little too assertive for me. I also learned to cook the sesame balls under 350 degrees as cooking them higher than that makes a crust that is too hard. Finally, it takes practice to get the filling right in the middle and to determine how much filling you need; we were a little stingy when we made the balls this time around. It was still a delicious adventure, and we now know we can make our own sesame balls.

Below is the recipe from Dessert First, mentioned above. You should definitely check out the site if you haven't seen it.

There is also another great recipe on Epicurious, which gives important advice on how to fry the balls and help them expand:

"In a 8-inch wide, 5-inch deep pot, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, about 330 degrees on a deep-fat thermometer. Carefully add 6 sesame balls at a time, and cook over medium heat until golden, 6 to 7 minutes. As the balls float to the surface, begin to press them gently with the back of a metal spatula against the sides of the pot. The balls will expand as they are gently rotated and pressed. Increase the heat to medium-high and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. "

Sesame Seed Balls

makes about 20

1 lb glutinous rice flour

1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 1/4 cup water

1/2 cup red bean paste or 3 oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

1 cup sesame seeds

oil for deep frying

Put the rice flour into a large bowl. Bring the water to a boil and add the brown sugar, stirring to dissolve.

Pour the sugar water over the rice flour and stir together with a wooden spoon to combine. You can add up to 1/3 cup more water if the mixture seems dry and isn't coming together. Once the dough is cool enough to touch with your bare hands you can stop using the spoon and just knead the dough - don't overwork it or it will become tough.

Once the dough is soft and smooth, break off a piece about the size of a golf ball and roll between your hands to form a ball. Place in a dish and cover with some plastic wrap, then repeat with the remaining dough.

Take one of the dough balls and make a well in it with your thumb. Place either a teaspoon of the red bean paste or a few pieces of the chocolate in the well, then push the dough together to cover up the filling. Roll the ball between your hands again to make it smooth and round without cracks.

Wet your hands with water and roll the dough ball in a dish of the sesame seeds, pressing gently to get the seed to adhere to the dough ball. Place the ball back under the plastic wrap and repeat with remaining balls.

Pour the oil in a wok or other pan so it is deep enough to cover the dough balls when you fry them. Heat over medium heat until it is 350 degrees.

Place a few dough balls (about 4-5) in the hot oil and let cook. Use a ladle or wooden spoon to press the dough balls against the side of the pan to rotate them - this is important to help them cook evenly and prevent spots from burning.

When the seeds start turning golden and the dough balls start floating to the top of the oil, the balls should be done - about 5 to 6 minutes. You might want to fish one out and cut it in half to make sure the dough has cooked all the way through.

Remove the balls and drain them on paper towels, then repeat with the rest. The sesame seed balls should be served as soon as possible to preserve freshness.


Brilynn said...

Sesame balls are a Chinatown favourite of mine, it's been far too long since I've had one.

Ninette Enrique said...

The ingredients are so simple. The trick seems to be in the technique of making the balls and having the right consistency of the dough and the correct ratio of bean paste to dough. The second trick is frying them at the right temp (I would say 330 degrees vs. 350 or above) and making sure they're cooked all the way through. We haven't gotten to "perfect" yet, so the dim sum sesame balls still win over our first try, but we'll get there!

nooschi said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'm not a fan of deep frying at home, but I might just try this. Looks great.

Lori said...

I love these. I bought some glutinous rice flour just to make these a few months ago. I still have not made them. I have made the red bean paste before, I love it too. You did a fantastice job and that picture makes me want to reach out and grab it!

Ninette said...

Hi Nooschi and Lori,

Thanks for your comments. If you make them, let me know how it goes. Maybe we can share tips with everyone.

sheryl said...

Butsi is one of my childhood favorites, but I never learned how to make it (we always got a box of it at the Chinese bakery). Good thing I just bought a whole container of sesame seeds for something else, but now I think I'll use it for this. Thanks for the recipe!

Kevin said...

These sound good. I am going to have to try them!

Ravenous Couple said...

Great rendition! Vietnamese have a similar dessert called ban ran or ban cam. We use mung bean with coconut filling.

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