Learn how to make fried sesame balls (Jian Dui or Jin Dui) with a tested method at home. You can choose red bean paste or black sesame paste as filling, even empty sesame balls. Follow the guide and make lovely crispy fried sesame balls.
What are sesame balls?
Fried sesame balls are made from sticky rice flour. Those sesame balls are usually filled with sweet red bean paste or black sesame paste and deep-fried until golden crisp. They are coated with toasted sesame seeds on the outside, giving them a nutty flavor. It has several other names, like Jian Dui, Jin Dui,Ma Tuan or Ma Yuan. It can be served as a snack or breakfast.
Let me guess, have you ever tried those fried sesame balls in dim sum halls? Possibly yes! Those sesame balls usually are served to enjoy savory dim sum dishes of various sizes. In fact, sesame ball is a very common breakfast dish popular far beyond Guangdong cuisine (cause of the popularity). It gets several nicknames in Chinese—Jian Dui or Ma Tuan. We usually have this as breakfast during my high school time. Then more and more popular healthy ideas come to life, so we did not cook them frequently in the following years. However, when it comes to holidays, a small batch of sesame balls will bring almost every guest back to old memories. I feel it is necessary to record how to make these fried sesame balls at home.
It is a tradition to make some dishes with glutinous rice (sweet sticky rice) for Chinese people. For example, we have Chinese rice dumplings (Zongzi) for Dragon Boat Festival, Chinese tteok for the Middle Autumn Day, sesame rice dumpling for Lantern Festival, and NianGao for Spring Festival. Glutinous rice is gluten-free rice with lower production relatively in China. Chinese people treasure the healthy value of sticky rice and thus provide various yummy dishes not only for holidays but also daily desserts and breakfast- like glutinous rice balls with coconut, mixed congee, and glutinous rice balls with crushed peanuts.
Fillings of sesame balls
The most popular filling choice for sesame balls is red bean paste filling and black bean filling. No matter which one you choose, make sure any wrap a very small amount in each of the sesame balls.
You may also choose not to include a filling inside. But still, need to finish the wrapping process to make sure there is an empty space inside the sesame ball.
About the flour of the ball
Glutinous rice flour is made from glutinous rice with a special treating method named "水磨". To produce glutinous rice flour, firstly glutinous rice shall be immersed in water for about two to three hours until it can be easily mashed by hand. In rural areas in China, the local people often use a stone mill to smash glutinous rice into rice milk. The rice milk will be poured into a yarn bag which is hung up to drain the rice milk. When the water in the rice milk is drained after a few hours, glutinous rice flour is initially accomplished and then it will be dried in the sun for long-time storage.
Water and flour ratio
Have you ever tried to make those sesame balls at home? And succeeded? Haha, I guess some of you guys might have tried, but ended with frustration. To make the perfect sesame balls, here are some tips Elaine would love to share publicly.
The ratio between the flour and water should be between 5:2 and 2:1. If too much water is added, the balls will collapse completely after deep-frying. If too little water is added, the shaping process will be quite difficult and the balls may explode during the deep-frying process.
How much sugar
The ideal ratio for the restaurant version usually calls for a ratio of 5:2 (flour: sugar). I know people are matching their sugar intake each day. We can only slightly reduce the amount of sugar for a homemade version. The lack of sugar will not only influence the taste, but also the golden brown color.
How to avoid explosion during the deep-frying process
You may have this experience: you made perfect balls with red bean filling, and check the oil temperature very well but still, you get the balls to explode and oil splash almost everywhere in your kitchen.
I have developed a lovely method to make sure this will not happen once again. The key skill here is to boil around 1/10 of your flour first and then mix it with the remaining flour. When glutinous rice flour meets heat or hot water, it becomes sticky, which can prevent an explosion in the deep-frying process if the oil temperature is well controlled.
How to deep-fry sesame balls
If you get a kitchen thermometer, heat the oil to around 120 degrees C. But relax if you do not have one. Just throw a smaller glutinous ball into the oil, and start deep-frying when you will see lots of small bubbles around. I would strongly suggest watching the video as I instructed lots of details about how to deep-fry the sesame balls. Higher oil temperature will burn the surface while the inner side keeps uncooked. However, lower oil temperature cannot bring you a perfect golden brown color.
Time to stop deep-frying
I would suggest transferring the balls out when they are slightly golden brown or medially golden brown because the left heat will darken the color in the following minutes. We call this as “后油” effect in Chinese, which literally means after deep-frying effect because of the hot oil.
In a small bowl, take around 2 tablespoons of glutinous rice flour out and mix with around 15ml water. Knead until smooth.
Bring some water to a boil and then cook the small dough for around 2 to 3 minutes. Prepare a bowl with cold water on the side. Then the small dough is ready, and transfer out to the remaining flour.
In a large bowl, mix the left flour with sugar and baking powder. And then add the small dough in. Break with hand and slowly stir in water. Continue kneading until smooth dough. The dough is completely different from the tangyuan dough, it is more elastic and much softer.
Further, shape the dough into long log and then divide into 20 equal portions.
Shape the small glutinous rice balls into a bowl and then wrap around 1 teaspoon of filling, either black sesame or red bean paste. Seal completely and shape into a round ball again.
Prepare two bowls: one with clean water and the other with sesame. Take one ball with one hand, quickly dip it in water and then roll the ball in a sesame bowl with another hand. This is a personal tip to make the process easier. Press the balls several times so the sesame seeds can stick to the surface. Repeat to finish all the sesame balls.
Heat enough oil (at least cover the balls) until 120 degrees C (or you can test the temperature with a smaller ball). Carefully add the sesame balls, I will recommend using a small scoop to help. Slow your fire immediately and slowly deep-fry the balls until slightly golden brown. Turn off the fire; transfer out and absorb extra oil with paper. Cool down for several minutes and enjoy!
How to store and reheat sesame balls
If you make a larger batch, you will need to deep-fry them for later serving. Another way is to cook in the oven for 4-5 minutes.
How to serve sesame balls
Sesame balls are the perfect option for Chinese breakfast. But since it is deep-fried, the recommend serving way is to serve it with soy milk, congee, or other savory dishes like Chinese cucumber salad.
Sesame Balls-Jian Dui
- 1.5 cup glutinous rice flour
- 80 g sugar , about ⅓ cup+ 2 tbsp.
- 100 ml water or 10ml more for adjusting , include the water for small dough, around ⅓ cup+ 1 tbsp.
- 1 cup roasted white sesame seeds , homemade instructions here
- filling as needed , red bean paste or black sesame filling
- water for dipping
- more glutinous rice flour for dusting
- oil for frying
Prepare the small dough
- In a small bowl, take around 2 tablespoon of glutinous rice flour out and mix with around 15ml water. Knead to until smooth.
- Bring some water to boil and then cook the small dough for around 2 to 3 minutes. Prepare a bowl with cold water on the side. When the small dough is ready, transfer out and add it into other sticky rice flour.
Prepare the main dough
- In a large bowl, mix the left flour with sugar. And then add the small dough in. Break with hand and slowly stir in water. Continue kneading until smooth dough.
- Further shape the dough into long log and then divide into 20 equal portions. Shape each portion into a round ball.
Assemble the sesame balls
- Shape the small glutinous rice balls into a bowl and then wrap around 1 teaspoon red bean paste in. Seal completely and shape into a around ball again.
- Prepare two bowls: one with clean water and the other with sesame. Take one ball with one hand, quick dip with water and then roll the ball in sesame bowl with another hand. This is a personal tip to make the process easier. Press the balls several times so the sesame seeds can sticky to the surface. Repeat to finish all the sesame balls.
Frying the balls
- Heat enough oil (at lest cover the balls) until 120 degree C (or you can test the temperature with a smaller ball). Carefully add the sesame balls, slow your fire immediately and slowly deep-fry the balls until slightly golden brown. Turn off fire; transfer out and absorb extra oil with paper. Cool down for several minutes and enjoy!
Hi, thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I lived in Canada and used to have them in Chinese restaurant Now living in Brazil the Chinese places don’t have them. It was perfect and I’ve been making them many times. Since I do t have the bean paste I filled them with guava paste or dried figs and walnuts and dried, dates and walnuts. I will not stop making them. ❤️
Thank you Angela for this feedback. Your filling with walnuts and dried figs sound really interesting. Happy cooking!
What kind of oil do you use for frying?
It should be sunflower seed oil. I don't like corn oil very much.
Please consider adding all metric measurements!! So confusing to have cups and metric in one recipe 🙁
Nice suggestion. I will update it soon.
Made these today. Very excited to find they taste just like I hoped they would. I have only ever eaten these at the Mandarin. I could not have made this recipe without these instructions. I made the rough bean paste with the skins and all. So good.
Thanks Karen for this wonderful feedback. I am so happy to be helpful.
I have to make another batch. They disappeared so quickly. Such a lovely recipe! So delicious.
Thanks Karen!! This is super comforting.
I've made this recipe around 4 times now, and it never disappoints! It is surprisingly simple, yet so tasty. I also love that it is vegan. Thank you so much for sharing this with us 🙂
Thanks Helena!! I am so happy to know this works for you. I understand how delicious and lovely this can be. Enjoy!
I’ve made these several times using your recipe and it’s indeed the best sesame balls I’ve ever had. I never thought it was this easy to make! My family loves it. It brings back memories of HK where I used to work for many years. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe.
Thank you Tess for your lovely feedback. This recipe is tested several times in my kitchen and I believe it is the easiest version with great result.
I haven’t made your recipe yet but am curious why you cook part of the dough first?
It helps to reduce the possibility of explosion in deep-frying process.
Hi Elaine, thank you for your response! I have made our recipe so many times since my first inquiry on your page. So thankful to you. I am not sure what your actual household measurements add up to, but I have used the following for my recipes. 150g flour, 80g sugar, 3 grams baking powder, and coconut milk in place of water. So delicious!!
This recipe is the best! My grandparents (who immigrated from China) say they're the best sesame balls they've ever had. They beg me to make them every time I visit 🙂 Thank you so much for the recipe!
I am so glad to hear this feedback. It really made my day. My grandparents love fries sesame balls as breakfast too. Hope the granny healthy and happy!
Is it possible to make these in an airfryer or without dell frying?
That's a lovely idea, Chris. I have not tried with airfryer yet. I will check to see how it works