Sesame ball, commonly known in Chinese as Jian dui or 煎堆 (which means a pile of fried stuff), or 芝麻球 (which means sesame ball), or 麻团 (which means a ball of sesame) is a local favourite in many parts of Asia. It is a fried crispy and chewy Chinese snack made of glutinous rice flour, coated with sesame seeds on the outside and filled with peanut paste, mung bean paste, red bean paste or lotus paste. You can find it in most local snack shops, food courts, hawker centres, as well as Chinese dim sum restaurants.
The fact that it’s deep fried with oil makes it very addictive, and yet unhealthy. In this recipe, I’m making this sesame ball with my Ninja XL Air Fryer, which means the sesame ball is not soaked dipped in oil during cooking, making it a healthier snack.
Making the dough and the fillings is not complicated. I used peanut paste filling and mung bean paste filling, which I made a few days earlier and kept covered in the chiller. The best part is that because I made everything from scratch, I was able to control the sugar and use better ingredients to make this snack.
For the sugar in the sesame ball dough and the mung bean filling, I used ZestyLeaf Monk Fruit Sweetener which is a 1:1 cane sugar replacement. It’s zero calorie, keto and diabetic friendly, zero glycemic index (GI), which means my mum who is suffering from the 3-highs, will be able to enjoy this snack and not worry too much of the sugar intake.
For the sugar-free peanut paste filling, I used the Manilife Deep Roast smooth peanut butter mixed with crushed peanuts, it’s perfect as there is no added sugar nor palm oil, and it’s vegetarian and vegan friendly.
Some tips to take note when making the sesame ball
- Use hot boiling water when making the dough as hot water cooks and stretches the glutinous rice flour, making it chewy and stretchy and it won’t break when molding it.
- Cover the dough with a cling wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes. If the dough is too dry, dab a little water to keep it moist.
- Use untoasted white sesame seeds, otherwise the sesame seeds get burnt during cooking. To make the sesame seeds stick to the dough ball, wet it with some water.
- The sesame balls expand in size after cooking, thus coat the sesame seeds as much as possible and avoid leaving any gaps.
- I air fried the sesame balls at 150 degree celsius / 302 degree fahrenheit for about 12-15 minutes. It’s important to monitor the sesame balls as I’ve once overcooked it and it became too hard. Another time, I undercooked it and although it looks okay, it doesn’t not look golden brown and the dough skin tasted quite raw.
- During air frying, if the filling leaks out, that might be because the dough is not completely sealed during wrapping of the filling or the temperature is too high. I’d use a silicone tong to turn the sesame ball leak-side up, so the leaked filling can be contained.
- If you are OCD like me, I like to make sure the sesame balls all look equal in size and shape, I used a digital scale to measure the dough and the fillings. The ratio of dough to filling I used is 1-to-1. Once you divide the dough and fillings, roll them into balls and cover with a cling wrap to prevent them from drying out.
- I prepared the fillings a few days in advance and kept them covered in the fridge. In this recipe, I used a peanut filling and a mung bean filling.
- Brush the assembled sesame balls with cooking oil all over evenly so that it can be air fried evenly.
- Always pre-heat the air fryer. And place the sesame balls at least 1 inch apart from each other. During air frying, flip the sesame balls every 4-5 minutes with a silicone tong, this will help maintain the round shape as much as possible. I also use the tong to shape it a bit each time.
Can I deep fry instead of air fry?
If you don’t have an air fryer, it’s perfectly fine to deep fry the sesame balls with oil.
To deep fry, the best practice is always to start with lower heat. If the sesame balls are cooked in too high a temperature, it’ll crack easily. Place a pot of cooking oil over medium low heat, enough to cover a layer of sesame balls by 2 inches, as the sesame balls will expand as it cooks. Heat up the oil first, use a wooden chopstick to dip into the oil and if the oil sizzles around the chopstick, the heat is good enough to add the sesame balls. Add enough sesame balls to fill the pot but leave at least 1-2 inches around as they will expand.
Keep stirring the sesame balls to prevent them from stick to the bottom of the pot. They will start to float after a few minutes, thus press down constantly so that they can be evenly cooked in the oil. Fry until the sesame balls turn golden brown, this takes about 10 minutes or so.
How to store sesame balls
I love eating the sesame balls within an hour after cooking, in fact, me and my family usually do not keep food overnight and love to eat it fresh and crispy. To store unfinished sesame balls, I would keep them in an airtight container in the chiller. To serve, simply reheat in the oven toaster or the air fryer at about 150 degree celsius / 248 degree fahrenheit for about 3-5 minutes or until the outside turns crispy.
Check out other local snack recipes
If you are into local kuehs, do check out these recipes, many of these are gluten-free, eggs-free and made with Monk fruit or Stevia sweetener, making them a healthier snack version from the original recipe:
- Pumpkin Ang Ku Kueh with Purple Sweet Potato Filling 紫薯馅金瓜红龟粿
- Ang Ku Kueh (Red Tortoise Cake 红龟粿)
- Ang Ku Kueh with Mung Bean Paste Filling (Red Tortoise Cake 绿豆蓉红龟粿)
- Pandan Coconut Ang Ku Kueh (Red Tortoise Cake 香兰椰丝红龟粿)
- Pumpkin Ang Ku Kueh with Chestnut Paste Filling 甘栗馅金瓜红龟粿
- Dadar Gulung (Kueh Dadar 香兰椰丝卷)
- Ondeh Ondeh
- Sweet Potato Kueh 甜番薯椰丝糕
- Kueh Ubi Kayu 蒸木薯糕 (Steamed Tapioca / Cassava Cake)
- Kaya Puff Pastry (Kaya Kok / 咖椰角)
- Soon Kueh 笋粿 (Bamboo Shoots Dumplings)
Watch how to cook Chinese Sesame Ball (Jian Dui) on YouTube
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Sugar-Free Sesame Ball – Air Fryer Chinese Jian Dui 气炸锅煎堆
- 80 g glutinous rice flour
- 1 tsp monk fruit sweetener or castor sugar
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 75 ml hot water
- 10 ml vegetable oil and some oil for brushing
- 2 tbsp white sesame seeds untoasted
- 150 g peanut filling or mung bean filling
- Mix the glutinous rice flour with salt and monk fruit sweetener (or sugar). Make a well in a centre and add hot water gradually in 2 separate parts.80 g glutinous rice flour , 1 tsp monk fruit sweetener, 1/8 tsp salt, 75 ml hot water
- Use a spatula to start mixing, the mixture will turn crumbly. Then add the second part of the water, it will start to form a crumbly sticky dough. Note: Add a bit more water if the dough is not forming, but not too much in case the dough will become too sticky.
- When cool enough to handle the dough, use your hand to knead the dough.
- Add 10ml vegetable oil gradually and knead into a soft, pliable, non-sticky and shiny dough. The dough should not break when you knead it. Note: If it’s too dry, add some water to the dough. If it’s too sticky, add some glutinous rice flour.10 ml vegetable oil
- Cover with cling wrap and let them rest for 15 minutes.
- Roll 25g of filling and 25g of dough into balls. Cover with cling wrap.150 g peanut filling or mung bean filling
- To assemble the sesame balls, roll the dough into a ball, use the thumb to press the dough in the middle until it forms a ‘bowl’.
- Add a portion of the peanut or mung bean filling into the ‘bowl’. Wrap the dough around the filling and seal it well and make sure the dough ball is smooth with no cracks to prevent leakage during cooking. Note: If the dough turns dry when you wrap, apply a bit of water.150 g peanut filling or mung bean filling
- Roll the wrapped dough ball into a smooth ball.
- Dab the assembled dough with some water. Coat it fully with the white sesame seeds.2 tbsp white sesame seeds
- Lightly brush the sesame balls all over with cooking oil.10 ml vegetable oil
- Preheat air fryer at 150 degree celsius / 302 degree fahrenheit for 3 minutes.
- Place the sesame balls into the air fryer, leaving 1-inch space in between each sesame ball. Note: The sesame balls will expand after air frying.
- Air fry at 150 degree celsius for 12-15 minutes. Flip the sesame balls every 4-5 minutes to ensure even cooking. The sesame balls are ready when they turn golden brown. Note: If some sesame balls go out of shape in the air fryer, use a silicone tong to carefully shape it back again. Take notice if the sesame ball becomes too hard, it means it's overcooked.
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