They’re called jiandui in Chinese cuisine (matuan in the north, ma yuan in the northeast, and zhen dai in Hainan) — glutinous rice balls with lotus or bean paste filling that are rolled in sesame seeds and deep fried.
My love affair with this Chinese pastry goes back all the way to my childhood and it has never waned over the years. What has changed is how I consume these sticky rice balls today.
Because my daughters have become so adept at making them, I don’t need to wait for an opportunity to go and eat at a dim sum place. I just have to ask one of them to cook a batch. And when they do, there are no strict rules as to what can go inside the rice balls.
Sam makes sesame balls with cheese filling. Alex makes them with ube halaya. Both versions are delicious.
Is it difficult to cook sesame balls at home? No. But you have to use the correct ingredients. These are screenshots from an old video that Sam took the last time she cooked sesame balls with cheese filling.
Glutinous rice flour is a must. Wheat flour or ordinary rice flour won’t work. You just mix the flour with water and sugar to make a dough.
The dough is rolled into balls and the balls are flattened at the center to make space for the filling.
A cube of cheese goes into the center of each ball of dough. The dough is gathered to enfold and enclose the cheese.
The cheese-filled glutinous rice balls are rolled in sesame seeds then deep fried until the crust is golden and crisp.
And… will you look at that? Just perfect! And I have to say that the sweet rice and salty cheese do go together beautifully.
Sesame BallsRecipe by
- 2 cups glutinous rice flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar use more for a sweeter dough
- 12 one-inch cube cheese
- ½ cup sesame seeds
- cooking oil for deep frying
- Dump the glutinous rice flour and sugar into a bowl. Mix in just enough water to allow the mixture to come together into a ball.
- Using a small ice cream scoop, divide the dough into 12 portions.
- Roll each portion between the palm of your hands to form small balls.
- Arrange the balls on your work surface and, using your index finger, press the center of each ball to create an indentation.
- Drop a cube of cheese at the center of each ball.
- Gather each ball to enclose the cheese filling.
- Roll the balls in sesame seeds to completely cover the surface.
- Heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least three inches.
- Fry the sesame seed balls over high heat until the crust is crisp and golden brown.
- Serve the sesame seed balls while hot.