Sesame Seed Dessert Balls (Jian Dui)

Sesame Seed Dessert Balls (Jian Dui) on a platter and on a plate

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 10 servings
Yield: 20 balls
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
381 Calories
19g Fat
50g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10
Amount per serving
Calories 381
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19g 24%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 61mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 50g 18%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 23g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 92mg 7%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 130mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Sesame seed balls are one of the most popular desserts in China and Taiwan, offered at dim sum restaurants and sold by street vendors. They have a crispy exterior with a chewy interior, and a toasty, nutty, sweet taste. A simple dough of sugar, water, and rice flour is wrapped around a filling of red bean paste, then the balls are coated in sesame seeds and deep-fried until golden brown.

Although worth trying at home, there is a certain technique required while deep-frying: the sesame seed balls need to be turned continually to expand. It takes practice to skillfully maneuver the balls in the hot oil. Even with practice, you may not be able to replicate the perfectly shaped, large sesame seed balls sold at Chinese bakeries, but they will still taste delicious.

This dessert is best served while still hot so, ideally, eat them as soon as possible for the best taste.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups oil for deep-frying, or as needed

  • 1/2 cup white sesame seeds, or as needed

  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1 to 1 1/3 cups boiling water

  • 3 cups glutinous rice flour

  • 1 cup red bean paste, or amount needed

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Sesame Seed Dessert Balls (Jian Dui) ingredients in bowls and measuring cups

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. In a wok or deep-sided, heavy saucepan, begin to heat the oil to reach 250 F. Make sure that there are at least 3 inches of oil in the wok.

    Oil in a pot on a burner, with a thermometer

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. Spread the sesame seeds over a piece of wax or parchment paper. Place a small bowl of water beside the sesame seeds.

    Sesame seeds on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, next to a bowl with water

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  4. Dissolve the brown sugar in 1 cup of the boiling water.

    Brown sugar and water mixture in a saucepan on a burner, with a wooden spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  5. Place the rice flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the dissolved sugar and water mixture. Stir until you have a sticky, caramel-colored dough, adding as much of the remaining 1/3 cup of boiling water as needed (don't add the water if not necessary).

    Dough ball in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  6. Pinch off a piece of dough roughly the size of a golf ball. Use your thumb to make a deep indentation in the dough and then the thumb and index fingers of both hands to form the dough into a cup.

    Dough in a bowl and dough held in hands

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  7. Roll 1 level teaspoon of sweet red bean paste into a ball. Place the red bean paste in the hole and shape the dough over the top to seal. It is important to make sure the red bean paste is completely covered. Continue with the remainder of the dough.

    Dough sealed around red bean paste and dough balls on a platter

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  8. Dip one ball at a time into the small bowl of water (this will help the sesame seeds stick to the dough).

    Dough ball dipped into a bowl with water, next to a baking sheet with sesame seeds

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  9. Roll the ball over the sesame seeds. Repeat the process with the remainder of the dough balls.

    Sesame seed coated dough balls on a baking sheet with sesame seeds

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  10. Add the sesame seed balls, a few at a time, to the hot oil.

    Sesame seed balls frying in a pot with oil, on a burner

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  11. Once the sesame seeds turn light brown (about 2 minutes), use the back of a spatula or a large ladle to gently press the balls against the side of the wok or saucepan. Continue applying pressure as the balls turn golden brown and expand to approximately 3 times their normal size.

    Sesame seed balls in a pot with oil on a burner, sesame balls flipped with a wood spatula

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  12. Drain the deep-fried sesame seed balls on paper towels. Serve warm and enjoy.

    Sesame Seed Dessert Balls (Jian Dui) on a paper towel lined platter

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Tips

  • If preparing the sesame balls ahead, refrigerate them and then reheat at 375 F for about 8 minutes until they puff up again.
  • The key cooking tip for this dessert is to never use a high temperature to fry the sesame seed balls. The ideal temperature for frying is 250 F (120 C). High temperatures cause the sesame seed balls to pop open and leak the filling.
  • Leftover cooked sesame balls can be frozen. Cool completely and place in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flash freeze for about 1 hour and then place in an airtight container or zip-top bag.

Recipe Variation

Authentic sesame seed balls usually use a sweet red bean filling but you can swap this with sesame filling or even a peanut filling if you like.