- Prep time 50 minutes
- Cook time 25 minutes
- makes 10 balls
Jian dui—crispy, chewy Chinese sesame balls—are not only delicious, but also have great meaning behind them. The way they inflate during cooking signifies prosperity. The balls rise up in the hot oil, and so this dish is often made to wish a person good luck. You’ll find sesame balls at Lunar New Year celebrations or at weddings. Deep-frying brings out the seeds’ aroma and crunch. And glutinous (aka sweet) rice flour yields a soft, squidgy texture—plus, it’s gluten-free.
Sesame balls come in different sizes, with or without fillings. Common fillings include mung bean, red bean, peanuts, or sesame paste. Although you may have seen these at dim sum restaurants or specialty snack stores, you can definitely re-create them at home. A few tips: The oil temperature needs to be maintained throughout the cooking process, then increased during the last few minutes, to achieve the proper color (you can use an instant-read thermometer to check). A spider or slotted spoon submerges the jian dui while cooking—this is a must if you want a hollow ball with a crunchy outer layer. This recipe is inspired by KL Liew's YouTube video.
(115 grams) glutinous (aka sweet) rice flour, plus more if needed
neutral oil, plus more for frying
(6 ounces) roasted, unsalted peanuts
(68 grams) unsalted creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 tablespoons
maple syrup, plus more if needed
(36 grams) raw white sesame seeds
- Prepare the dough: Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add ½ cup of water and the sugar to a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 30 seconds to ensure that the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Using a pair of chopsticks or a rubber spatula, stir the flour while very slowly pouring in the hot sugar syrup, until a shaggy dough forms that easily holds together when squeezed, with no dry patches of flour—you may not need all of the syrup. The dough should be cool enough to knead at this point; if not, cover and let cool until you can handle it.
- Add the 1 tablespoon oil and knead by hand until the dough is in a cohesive ball and as soft as your earlobe. (If the dough is too wet, you can add in more glutinous rice flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Adding too much flour or too little syrup will lead to cracks later on when frying.) Cover the dough with a damp cloth or lid and let rest for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the filling: Using a food processor or a mortar and pestle, grind the peanuts into a fine powder. (Alternatively, you can place peanuts in a large bag and use a rolling pin to crush them.) Transfer to a bowl and stir in the peanut butter and maple syrup until well combined. Take a small dollop and try to roll it into a ball; if it's too dry, add another teaspoon of maple syrup. When you have the texture right, refrigerate the mixture for at least 10 minutes to firm it up. Then, divide it into 10 equal portions and roll these into balls.
- Uncover the dough and divide it into 10 equal portions, then roll these into balls. Grease your hands with oil. Take a dough ball and flatten it into a 3- to 3½-inch disk, aiming for the middle to be thicker than the outer edge by pinching with your fingers. Place a peanut butter ball in the middle, then wrap and seal the dough around it. Roll the wrapped ball in between your palms to create a smooth, uniform ball. Repeat with the remaining dough balls and peanut butter balls.
- Set up a dipping station: Add the sesame seeds to a plate and fill a bowl with water.
- Dip a dough ball in the water and shake off any excess. Now roll the ball in sesame seeds, coating the entire surface. Gently roll the ball between your palms to ensure the sesame seeds adhere. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
- Line a plate with paper towels. In a 1½-quart saucepan (or similar), add enough oil to rise halfway up the side of the pan. Heat the oil over medium to 300°F. Using a slotted spoon or spider, carefully drop a few balls in the hot oil, leaving enough space for each one to nearly double in size. Use a pair of chopsticks to gently move around the balls (this helps them fry evenly). Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the outer layer is golden brown, using the slotted spoon or spider to push them back into the oil whenever they float to the top. Increase the temperature to 325°F and fry for another 3 to 5 minutes, until deeply golden brown, crispy, and a ball sounds hollow when you remove it from the oil and give it a tap. Transfer to the towel-lined plate.
- Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Just remember, before you fry the second batch, lower the oil temperature back to 300°F, then skim and discard any sesame seeds from the oil. Serve warm.