These crispy sesame balls, Jian Dui or Zhi Ma Qiu (芝麻球), are crispy on the outside with a slight chew when you bite into it. It’s really delicious and easy to make with a few tips below. This recipe is inspired by Aunty KL Liew’s YouTube video.
What is Crispy Sesame balls – Jian Dui?
Jian dui or also known as zhi ma qiu are crispy and chewy Chinese sesame balls that are fried. They are not only delicious but also have great meaning behind them. The way they inflate during cooking signifies prosperity. The balls rise up in the hot oil, and so this dish is often made to wish a person good luck. You’ll find sesame balls at Lunar New Year celebrations or at weddings to share happiness. Deep-frying brings out the seeds’ aroma and crunch. And glutinous (aka sweet) rice flour yields a soft, squidgy texture—plus, it’s gluten-free.
Sesame balls come in different sizes, with or without fillings. Common fillings include mung bean, red bean, peanuts, and sesame paste. Although you may have seen these at dim sum restaurants or specialty snack stores, you can definitely recreate these at home.
Tips to make Crispy Sesame balls – Jian Dui
Patience is the key to frying these crispy sesame balls!
- The oil temperature needs to be maintained throughout the cooking process, then increased during the last few minutes for color (you can use a deep-fry or instant-read thermometer to check in).
- A spider or slotted spoon submerges the balls while cooking—this is a must if you want a round hollow ball with a crunchy outer layer.
- A fully cooked through sesame ball will remain crispy and will not collapse before serving.
How to make Crispy sesame balls – Jian Dui
Step 1: Prepare the dough
The dough is a simple mixture of glutinous rice flour and boiling sugar water.
The tip is to add just enough liquid to the flour until a shaggy dough is formed. Since the water is hot, I used a pair of chopsticks to slowly stir in the liquid.
Add the oil and enough glutinous rice flour to form a soft dough.
Once you have a cohesive ball and it doesn’t stick to your hand, cover the bowl with a lid and rest while you work on the filling.
Step 2: Prepare the filling
The filling is as simple as mixing crushed peanuts with peanut butter and sweetened with maple syrup. I love to use fresh unsalted roasted peanuts for their aroma. To save time, feel free to use the store-bought version.
Tip: Once you mix the ingredients together and roll them into balls, refrigerate so they are stiffer. This step is helpful especially if your kitchen is humid. I refrigerate mine for about 10 minutes while I prepare the next step.
Step 3: Assemble the balls
Before you start to assemble, set up a wrapping station. Fill one bowl with water, one bowl with a tablespoon of oil, and a plate with raw white sesame seeds. Then, divide the dough into 10 equal portions. Take out the filling from the refrigerator.
To assemble the balls, lightly grease both of your palms with oil.
Method 1: Take one dough and pinch to flatten it into a 3- to 3½-inch disc, aiming for the middle to be thicker than the circumference. Place a filling in the middle, then wrap and seal the dough around it.
Roll it between your palms to create a smooth round. Then, dip in the water quickly, remove and shake off excess water. Roll the ball with sesame seeds until well-coated. Place the ball in between your palms again and roll to adhere the sesame seeds on the ball. TIP: This is an important step so the sesame seeds will not fall off when fried.
Method 2: Take one dough and pinch a hole in the middle. Pinch the side while turning the dough around to create a cup-like shape that is big enough to fit a filling. Once you place in the filling, pinch to seal and continue the steps above.
Step 4: Cook the crispy sesame balls
While these balls are often fried, you can also air fry these. Please check the fried vs air fried in the next section to determine which texture you like the most.
How to fry crispy sesame balls – Jian Dui
Before you start, line a plate with paper. I like to use a small saucepan to fry these as they are easier to handle. Note: These balls will expand to 1.5-2X its original size, so do not overcrowd the pan to allow room for them to do so. Fill half of the small saucepan with oil. Heat it to 300F (~150°C) over medium-low heat. Slowly drop the balls into the hot oil.
Using a pair of chopsticks, move the balls around so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Using a slotted spoon or spider, immerse the balls into the oil whenever they float up. This step is to create a round and hollow ball. Fry for 5-7 minutes until golden brown.
Increase the heat to 325F (~160°C) and continue to fry to get deeply golden brown balls. Transfer to the towel-lined plate and repeat with the remaining doughs. Serve warm.
How to air fry crispy sesame balls
Preheat the air fryer to 325F (~160°C) for 2 minutes, then grease the inner rack. Place in the balls, slightly apart then brush/spray the top with oil. Air-fry for 4 – 5 minutes, pause, and turn the balls around, making sure they don’t stick together.
Brush a thin layer of oil on the balls each time you take it out to give it a turn. The turn will help create a rounder ball. Air-fry for another 4 – 6 minutes until the balls expanded to about 1.5X their original size. Increase the heat to 375F (198°C) and air fry for another 2 minutes to get the deeply golden brown. Air fryer temperature varies, so please check to make sure they don’t brown too quickly. If it does, adjust the heat down accordingly. I always take a peek every 2-3 minutes just to make sure.
Fried vs air-fried Crispy Sesame balls
The fried version is no doubt the closest to the ones from store-bought. It has a crispy outer layer with a slight chew when you bite into it.
Similarly, the air-fried version is very crispy as well but without the chew, I was looking for. Also, it turns harder after a little while. So it’s best to serve it right away. You may notice not all balls are perfectly round using this method.
The picture above tells the texture of the two cooking methods – Fried (Top) vs Air-fried (Bottom).
Crispy Sesame Balls – Jian Dui FAQs
- The outer layer cracks – Dry dough, too much flour, and stretched too thin will cause cracks. So add just enough flour to form a dough. If this is your first time making these balls, use method 1 to wrap it. Only fry in the oil temperature mentioned, if the oil it too hot, the outer layer will crack easily.
- Sesame ball deflates before serving – The dough did not have enough time to expand, so please immerse and press the ball into the hot oil to prevent that.
- Air-fried balls turn hard – as mentioned above, air-fried version needs to be served right away or it will turn harder if left too long at the countertop.
- The sesame seeds turn dark – Use raw white sesame seeds as below. Toasted sesame seeds will not work in this recipe.
Other delicious appetizers to try:
- Vegan Kuih Seri Muka
- Vegan Pineapple Tarts (Malaysian-style)
- Vegan Apam Balik – Peanut pancake turnover
These crispy sesame balls (Jian dui) are
- Crispy on the outside with an amazing chew on the inside
- Easy to make
- Delicious as snacks or treats
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Crispy Sesame Balls – Jian Dui (芝麻球)
- 1 cup glutinous rice flour, plus more if needed
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil plus more for frying
- 1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
- ¼ cup unsalted creamy peanut butter
- 1½ tablespoons maple syrup plus more if needed
- ¼ cup raw white sesame seeds plus more if needed
- Prepare the dough: Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add ½ cup of water and the sugar to a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 30 seconds to ensure that the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Using a pair of chopsticks or a rubber spatula, stir the flour while very slowly pouring in the hot sugar syrup until a shaggy dough forms, that easily holds together when squeezed, with no dry patches of flour—you may not need all of the syrup. The dough should be cool enough to knead at this point; if not, cover and let cool until you can handle it.
- Add the oil and knead by hand until the dough is in a cohesive ball and as soft as your earlobe. (If the dough is too wet, you can add in more glutinous rice flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Adding too much flour or too little syrup will lead to cracks later on when frying.) Cover the dough with a damp cloth or lid and let rest for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the filling. Using a food processor or a mortar and pestle, grind the peanuts into a fine powder. (Alternatively, you can place peanuts in a large bag, and use a rolling pin to crush them.)
- Transfer to a bowl and stir in the peanut butter and maple syrup until well combined. Take a small dollop and try to roll it into a ball; if it's too dry, add another 1 teaspoon of maple syrup. When you have the texture right, refrigerate the mixture for at least 10 minutes to firm it up. Then, divide it into 10 equal portions and roll these into balls.
- Uncover the dough and divide it into 10 equal portions and roll these into balls. Grease your hands with oil. Take 1 dough ball and flatten it into a 3- to 3½-inch disc, aiming for the middle to be thicker than the circumference by pinching with your fingers. Place a peanut butter ball in the middle, then wrap and seal the dough around it. Roll the wrapped ball in between your palms to create a smooth, uniform ball. Repeat with the remaining dough balls and peanut butter balls.
- Set up a dipping station: Add the sesame seeds to a plate and fill a bowl with water.
- Dip a dough ball in the water and shake off excess. Now roll the ball in sesame seeds, coating the entire surface. Gently roll the ball between your palms to ensure the sesame seeds adhere. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
- Line a plate with paper towels. In a 1½-quart saucepan (or similar), add enough oil to rise halfway up the side of the pan. Heat the oil over medium to 300°F. Using a slotted spoon or spider, carefully drop a few balls in the hot oil, leaving enough space for each onel to nearly double in size. Use a pair of chopsticks to gently move around the balls (this helps them fry evenly.).
- Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the outer layer is golden brown, using the slotted spoon or spider to push them back into the oil whenever they float to the top. Increase the temperature to 325°F and fry for another 3 to 5 minutes until deeply golden brown, crispy, and a ball sounds hollow when you remove it from the oil and give it a tap. Transfer to the towel-lined plate.
- Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Just remember, before you fry the second batch, lower the oil temperature back to 300°F, and skim and discard any sesame seeds from the oil. Serve warm.