Tasty Tuesday – Sesame Balls
With the Chinese New Year celebrations on this side of the globe drawing to a close, this means one of my favorite treats will soon disappear – a small fritter-like snack with loads of sesame seeds on the outside and a sweet bean paste on the inside. What’s not to love?
My relationship with these tasty little nuggets began at a Chinese buffet way back in junior high, somewhere in Illinois. I had no clue what they were, why they were only available for certain parts of the year, and couldn’t figure out what this goop was inside that I liked so much. I now know the secret answers to these questions, and I’d love to reveal them to you…
These are sesame balls (similar also to the popular Japanese treat Mochi).
Sesame balls are really only served during holidays, namely the Chinese New Year. Since the New Year was celebrated on Feb 14th of this year, I have been lucky enough to find them for the whole last week here in Singapore. This makes for a very happy me, of course. As with many items served during the New Year celebration season, these little dumplings have a meaning behind them. Not only are sweets meant to wish good fortune for the upcoming year, but their golden color and round shape are thought to be lucky. Another interesting fact is that the balls of dough tend to puff up dramatically as they fry, so they also indicate a growing possibility or opportunity in the coming future, something that will start out small and become large enough to turn a profit.
Sesame balls also range in size from slightly smaller than your average doughnut hole to about the size of your fist. No matter how big they are, it’s quite difficult to eat only one! The outside of a sesame ball consists of a stretchy dough made from glutinous rice flour, then moistened and rolled completely in sesame seeds. When formed and fried, the dough generally puffs up to several times its original size, remaining soft and chewy on the inside. Depending on the method and length of time frying, sesame balls can either have a nice snap to their outer shell or be soft like a dumpling. (It also depends on how long they’ve been sitting out on your buffet line!)
As you can see from the picture above, there’s another surprise lurking within these little fried balls of dough, and, no, it’s not jelly or Bavarian cream. The most common filling (and the one you are likely to see on your local Chinese buffet) is red bean paste. Wait, beans? Yes, beans. They are actually rather sweet, and when mashed into a paste, quite enjoyable! These are my personal favorite. You can also find some that are solid, without filling (where’s the fun in that?), as well as others filled with a mixture of crushed peanuts and dark sugar syrup (had one of those 2 nights ago, the size of my fist).
If you couldn’t tell already, I absolutely love this snack, and I want all of you to share in the same joy I have each time I bite into one of these little things. Next time you’re at a Chinese restaurant or local buffet, give sesame balls a whirl.