Asian foods range from savory stews, sauces, broths, and braises, steamy vegetable stir fry and fresh salads, and all sorts of grilled broiled, fried, and preserved meats to sweet and savory pastries.
As with many global communities, Asians have tasty snacks with which to have tea and other beverages. One of the most popular snacks is sesame balls, referred to as Jian Dui in China. They are believed to have originated in the country, but others have since adopted them, like Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Here is everything you need to know about Jian Dui.
What are Sesame Balls?
Sesame balls are a type of pastry made from sticky rice flour dough. They are called Sesame balls or Zhi Ma Qiu because their outer layer is coated with sesame seeds. Because they are deep-fried, they have a characteristic crispy crust, but the inside remains soft and chewy.
Depending on the recipe used, sesame balls may have a sweet filling in the center, but most are hollow in the middle, thanks to the expansion that comes with being deep fried in hot oil. Sesame balls have a characteristic taste that combines a roast flavor from the sesame and sweet mung bean-like flavor from the sticky rice flour and filling.
What are Chinese Sesame Balls made of?
As mentioned, sesame balls are made from sticky rice flour dough. The dough requires a unique preparation technique that ensures it does not get too runny or stiff. The stickiness is essential as it influences the consistency of the sesame balls once it is deep fried.
The Jian Dui sometimes has a sweet filling which is often prepared using lotus seed paste, red bean paste, mung bean paste, or any other paste of choice. The final addition is the sesame seeds which are applied by rolling the filled rice dough balls in a bowl or plate of sesame seeds.
Sesame Ball History
Sesame balls or Jian Dui were believed to have been discovered or first developed in the 7th Century CE, which translates to nearly 2,700 years back. They were a popular snack during the Tang Dynasty.
Following the great migration that occurred later, sesame balls were introduced to other Asian communities, such as the Japanese, Koreans, Cambodians, and others. Since they were deemed relatively easy to make and tasty snacks that adults and children could nibble on, they quickly became popular. Other global communities have now adopted the recipes.
Interestingly, sesame ball recipes have not changed dramatically over the last close to three centuries, and it is believed that the original recipes are used to date.
Sesame Ball Origin
As mentioned, Jian Dui is believed to have been first made in the Tang Dynasty, which was in present-day China. It was considered a palace food in the Chang’an palace.
The recipe would later find its way to people’s homes in northern China. The southern migration would later spread the recipe’s reach to the people of Southern China, and it quickly became a national delicacy before being introduced to other Asian communities.
What is inside Chinese Sesame Balls?
Typically, Chinese Jian Dui is filled with a sweet paste. In original recipes, the most common filling was made from lotus seed paste. Now, red bean and black bean pastes have become more popular as fillings for Chinese Sesame Balls.
How to make Chinese Sesame Balls
This recipe serves 8 people.
1.5 cups glutinous rice flour
⅓ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon room temperature water
¼ cup hot water
200 grams of lotus seed, red bean, or black bean paste
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds (raw is also acceptable)
4 cups sesame or vegetable oil
Begin with making the sesame ball rice dough. In a clean bowl, pour ½ a cup of glutinous rice flour. Add in the sugar and mix the two thoroughly until they are fully incorporated.
Add the boiling hot water to the flour and sugar mixture. Use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to mix till smooth. Once mixed, let the mixture sit for 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and the rest of the glutinous rice flour. Mix everything until it forms a sticky dough. Cover it with a tray or plate and let it rest for half an hour.
Get the sesame seeds and rinse them in water. Keep them in the water until they are thoroughly soaked. Spread them out on a tray and if they are too wet, use a paper towel to drain the excess water.
Separate your dough into 8 equal pieces and roll them out to a diameter of 3 inches. Place a piece of filling in each, ensuring that the filling is half the weight of the dough. Cover the filling with the dough and then roll it with the sesame seeds until fully coated.
Heat the cooking oil in a wok until hot. Add in the balls and allow them to cook until they float in the oil. Press them in with your slotted spoon to make sure they are cooked evenly.
Drain them in a cooling rack once cooked and leave them to cool for 10 minutes. They are ready to serve.
Are Sesame Balls Healthy?
Yes, they are. Sesame balls are high in protein, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, healthy fats, and anti-inflammatory agents that are great for the body. However, one should learn to exercise limits while indulging in these treats, as too much of the same can harm your health.
Sesame Balls Calories
An average 2.5-inch diameter sesame seed ball contains 130 to 132 calories which makes it a calorie-dense snack.
If you are looking to have something of a taste of ancient China, sesame balls may be one place to start. They are easy to make, and you can have them as a snack or an accompaniment to different savory foods. The choice of filling is important; be sure to exercise loads of patience as you cook them for the best results.
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