Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year began on January 31, 2014. To celebrate start of the year of the horse, (don’t make the same mistake the BBC did) a friend of the Magpie shared a box of still-warm-from-the-bakery treats. While accepted graciously, said treat sat for some time while the Magpie studied it. A few web searches revealed that the item in question was a sesame seed ball or jin deui.
It was the Magpie’s first taste of such a thing, and it proved to be unlike anything else she’d ever eaten. It was coated in seeds (always a plus.) They were toasted sesame seeds, to be exact. Because of this, the first bite was reminiscent of a crisp, very fresh bagel. That bite revealed a soft, slightly chewy, white interior with just a hint of sweetness. A second bite exposed another layer in the center, this one dark and a bit earthy tasting. It looks not unlike a Scotch egg but with totally different textures and flavors. The Magpie found the sesame seed ball to be a bit on the savory side with the toasted seeds being the most prominent flavor. However, itl is definitely considered a Chinese dessert pastry, and there are versions of the crisp orb in many cultures each with their own twist.
After the adventure of trying a jin deui, the Magpie wanted to know what exactly she was eating and so set about locating a recipe. In case you’d like to attempt these at home, now you can!
Sesame Seed Balls for the Lunar New Year
- 1/2 cup (125 mL/4 oz) dried adzuki beans, soaked (also known as azuki, aduki, or red beans)*
- 1 1/2 cups (325 mL) water
- 3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (175 mL) canola or vegatable oil
- 3 cups (750 mL) glutinous rice flour
- 1 – 1 1/3 cups (250 – 325 mL) boiling water
- 3/4 cup (175 mL) golden yellow sugar
- 1 cup (250 mL) sweet red bean paste
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) sesame seeds (or as needed)
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- For the paste, soak adzuki beans over night, or for at least 6 hours. Drain beans, rinse, and place in a medium sized pot with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft, 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the heat, drain, and let cool.
- Transfer cooked beans to a food processor and process until smooth. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a pasty cutter or a large fork to mash the beans until as smooth as possible.
- Stir the sugar and oil into the pureed beans, then transfer to a medium sized pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture forms a thick, sweet paste, about 20 – 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- For the dough, dissolve the sugar in 1 cup (250 mL) of the boiling water.
- Place the rice flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour the water and sugar mixture into the well, stirring until a sticky, caramel coloured dough is formed. If the dough seems dry, add as much of the remaining 1/3 cup (75 mL) of boiling water as you need to make the dough. Cover the dough with a damp towel or plastic wrap.
- To assemble, get a deep-sided heavy saucepan or deep-fryer, heat the oil to 350°F (175°C).
- Spread out the sesame seeds on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Pinch off a small piece of the dough (about the size of a walnut) and form into a bowl shape. Fill with about 1/2 – 1 tsp (2 – 5 mL) of the red bean paste. Pinch the dough closed with your fingers and form into a ball shape. Repeat this step until all of the remaining dough has been used up.
- Roll each ball in the sesame seeds to coat, and set aside. Any leftover red bean paste may be stored in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to one week.
- When all your sesame balls are ready to be cooked, add them to the pot or deep-fryer and cook until a rich golden brown, about 2 – 3 minutes. Use tongs to carefully turn the sesame balls while cooking to ensure they cook evenly.
- Place cooked sesame balls on paper towels to drain excess oil. Serve warm. They will taste the day they are made, but if you have any leftovers, warm them up in the oven before serving.
recipe credit: Redpath
If that looks too ambitious for you to undertake, you can always look for sesame seed balls in a Dim Sum restaurant, or you could try a Chinese grocery or bakery.