Introduction: Dim Sum Sesame Balls

About: Like to solve everyday life little problems. I'm curious about things I don't know much. Like to do things that require and allow creativity.

After I ate dim sum sesame balls in a local restaurant for the first time, I had to go back to the restaurant again and again just to eat sesame balls until the idea of making it myself hit me. It's just fried balls made of some kind of flour, with red bean paste filling, sesame seeds sticking on the surface, can't be that difficult to make, right?


After some work, I got a recipe from somebody in food industry. I was excited. When I put the balls in hot oil, after a couple of minutes, they all popped open, released filling to oil. It was a hot mess. After that, I thoroughly searched internet for different versions of the recipe. Unfortunately there aren't many. All recipes on internet use similar ingredients with similar proportions. Something was odd. I had to keep going to the restaurant to eat it and even became friends with the owner. But she was no help because she buys them pre-made, all she does is frying them. Even if she makes them, I doubt she would give me her recipe as it may be her trade secret.

Meanwhile I happened to see Rachel Ray making them (no filling as I remember), which made me even more determined to nail this recipe to have sesame balls to eat for the rest of my life at any time and to boost my ego :-). 

Because I didn't have a fryer at that time, I used a regular stir fry wok. I suspected the reason for explosion was due to no temperature control  of the frying oil. So I bought a fryer, tried frying temperatures at relatively high, low and in between, still balls exploded. Boy, I must have wasted tons of oil and still didn't give up.

So I put on my food scientist cap and gave the ingredients and proportions a close look , considering the interaction and function of fat, starch, and protein during cooking. I decided to replace one ingredient on the recipe.  It worked like magic! I did it!

I have been making my own red bean paste ever since, tried minced meat filling and fortune (for fun, not edible). I'm sharing all three in this Instructables.

Warning: If you are not entertaining troops or feeding crowds, scale down, baby, following all steps of this Instructables will give you about 160 balls, 24 or more muffins and some creamy bean paste for bread spread.

Step 1: Ingredients

For Dough (make 80 balls)
4 Cups sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice flour or sticky rice flour, has nothing to do with gluten, nor is it sweet or sugary )
1 Cup white wheat flour
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup vegetable shortening
2 Cups boiling water

1 1/2 Cups sesame seeds

1.5 - 2 QT corn oil for frying

For red bean paste filling
1 1/2 lbs azuki red bean
1/2 Cup brown sugar

For minced meat filling
1/2 Cup shart grain white rice
1/2 vegetable or beaf bouillon cube
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp parsley, finely copped
10 Oz ground pork
1 1/2 Tsp ground paprika
1/2 Tsp ground cayenne pepper
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper  

For fortune
I collect fortune whenever I eat a fortune cookie. That's what I used. This was to find out if a fortune, love letter, ticket or prize drawing, or proposal can be hidden in the balls. The answer is 100% yes.

Step 2: Prepare Dough

In a large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients well.
Rub in shortening to resemble bread crumbs.
Add boiling water a little at a time and mix until it forms a ball.
Knead dough smooth and divide it into 4 parts, cover it with platic wrap and set aside to cool. If not used on the same day, put it in fridge.

Step 3: Make Fillings

For red bean filling:
The night before, soak the beans in cool water.
Boil the beans covered in water until easily mashed between fingers, drain.
Mash cooked beans with a potato masher or avocado masher.
Strain mashed bean in a fine strainer, the under part is creamy and is used as sesame ball filling. Don't toss the above strainer  part, collect it to make muffin (recipe provided in next step).
Add 1/2 cup brown sugar to the creamy paste (I like mine just a hint of sweetness and I'm health concious at all times, you may add more sugar if you wish).
On low heat, mix bean paste and sugar, reserve half of the paste in jars and store it in fridge for bread spread.
Continue heating and stirring the remaining paste to remove excessive moisture until it can be kneaded into shape by a spatula.
Remove it from heat and place it in a flat plate, press and pack it to 1/2 inch thick, divide it into 1/2 inch cubes, it's ready now.

For minced meat filling:
Crumble the bouillon in pan and cook the rice. When done, set it aside.
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a skillet and fry the onion until soft and golden. Add in parsley and cook until wilted. Place it in a mixing bowl and set it aside.
Put the remaining oil in the skillet and fry the ground meat, stirring often, until cooked and even browned. Season with paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.
When everything has cooled down slightly, mixing it all in the mixing bowl.
It's ready.

Step 4: Carrot and Coarse Red Bean Paste Muffin

This step isn't part of making sesame balls. It's to use above strainer coarse red bean paste. I promised the recipe in previous step. here you go:

2 1/3 cup above strainer part coarse red bean paste
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup pastry flour
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tbsp molasses
3 tbsp boiling water
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground all apice
1/3 cup deciccated shredded coconut
 1/3 cup dried blue berries (or raisins)
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp vegetable oil
24 dark chocolate chips (optional)

2 12-cup muffin pans, lined with paper liners

Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large mixing bowl, mix well all dry ingredients.
Stir in beaten egg, mix well.
Add in carrot, mix well.
Add in red bean paste, mix well.
In a small bowl, add boiling water to molasses, stir to dissolve. Add vegetable oil.
Add this liquid mixture to the large mixing bowl, mix well.
Drop or spoon mixture to 24 paper liners.
Add one dark chocolate chip to each paper liners on top of the batter (optional). 
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.

These muffins are healthy, nutritious, and deliciously. They taste equally good when cold, making them lunch box favorite.

Step 5: Shape Balls

Take one part of the dough at a time, roll it into approximately 3/4 inch rope, cut it into 3/4 inch pieces.
Slightly flatten one dough piece in your palm.
Use your thumb make a well in the center.
Drop one bean paste square, or add one small spoon of minced meat filling or fortune in the well. Now it's a half sphere.
Form a circle with your thumb and point finger, hold the half sphere in the circle, decrease the diameter of the circle and work to close the opening. Now it's not a perfect ball shape yet. Move the ball between your palms to work it into a better ball shape.

It's hard to describe the process in words. Not to mention English is not my native language. So a video (below) may serve better.  

You may find it hard to do it at first. But a little practice goes a long way.  

Step 6: Stick Sesame to the Surface

With a shallow layer of water in a container, roll the balls in the container to wet it all around. Tilt the container and pick up the balls. (It's better to work with 2 balls only at a time especially if you are making it for the first time).

Drop the balls in a narrow container that has a deep sesame seeds bed in it (I used a bread loaf pan). (Sesame seeds go rancid easily once wet. The purpose of using a narrow container is to use as little sesame seeds as possible to have as deep a bed as possible, so you don't end up tossing out the leftover wet sesame seeds.), roll them all around in sesame seeds.

Pick up a ball, roll it between your palms until sesame seeds pressed and stick to the balls securely. 

Now you just made a sesame ball ready to be fried. Congratulations.

Step 7: Fry the Balls

Add oil to your fryer to a level between Max and Min. Set frying temperature at 340 F. (You can use regular wok with oil enough to cover balls, heat it until you drop a little dough in it and there is bubbles coming from around the dough or use a thermometer).

Drop balls in the holder and set it in the hot oil. After about 2 minutes, the balls should float to the top and rolling in hot oil themselves if you did a good job that the balls are round, dough of the wall is consistent thickness all around. It's amazing to watch them rolling themselves happily. Avoid frying too many balls in one batch so they have room to float and roll to be fried consistently all around. I fry 9-12 balls in one batch in my little fryer (1.3 lb food capacity, 2 QT oil container). Fry them for about 5 minutes until golden brown.

Drain oil. Line a plate with paper towel. Place fried balls on paper towel. You are ready to fry another batch. Wait, treat yourself some balls first and then proceed to fry another batch.

If you don't want to fry too many in one day, place the balls in platic holder and put them in freezer, once balls are hard, store them in ziplock bag until whenever you want to eat them and fry them then. (My husband eats ball shaped Japanese mocha snack all the time. I  collect the plastic holder in the package. They are perfect for holding sesame balls in freezer.)

Step 8: Serve

They are best served hot, nutty and crispy outside, creamy and sweet (red bean paste filling) or savory (minced meat filling) inside.

They can be eaten cold, or warm up for 20 seconds in microwave, the outside becomes chewy.

The fortune filled sesame ball can be used for delivering a fortune, a love letter, a ticket or prize drawing (any one person out of a group who eats the ball with the number/note/fortune is the lucky person).

Another good thing about them is the fact that these sesame balls seem to absorb no oil due to the sesame seeds cover on outside and the nature of the dough. Not like some other fried foods which take up a lot oil, thus less healthy.

The only problem for me is to judge which filling with these sesame balls tastes better because they both are so delicious. I always get a lot thanks from my family with their mouth full and hugs with their hands full on the days I make these. These are also grabbed within minutes at parties no matter how many I bring to. If you tried making them and didn't like them, you simply need to make them again and get better at it.

Step 9: Last

It may sound cliche.

Sharing this step by step recipe with public feels like giving part of me out.

So please vote this Instructables for Fried Food Contest and Chinese Food Contest if you could.  Thanks a million. 

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