Bon Appetit Wednesday! Sesame Balls (Jian Dui)

sesame ballsChewy and crispy, sweet and savory, this ancient Chinese treat has it all. Today we’re bringing you a recipe sure to delight even the pickiest of palates. Sesame balls, Jian Dui, date back to the Tang Dynasty (7th century CE) in China. These round pastries were a popular palace food in Chang’an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty.[1] Not surprisingly, as people migrated across China, they brought Sesame Balls with them and the recipe persisted from century to century.

It is a simple, but delicious treat. Made of a glutinous rice flour covered in crispy sesame seeds and filled with sweet lotus paste, black bean paste or red bean paste, these delightful spheres are the perfect harmony of flavors and textures. In fact, they are so delightful, their Chinese name, “Jian Dui,” translates to “smiling mouth cookies.”[2] The happy little treats are often served at holidays and occasions such as New Year’s because they symbolize happiness and laughter.[3]

Of course, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy them any time of the year! Bake up a batch tonight. We bet you can’t eat just one!

Sesame Balls (Jian Dui)

Gluten Free buttonVegan Button copy*Recipe courtesy of

Yields 12 balls


  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 cups of glutinous rice flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 cup of sweetened red bean paste
  • 1/2 large ripe banana, cut into 12 small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of white sesame seeds, plus more if needed
  • Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying


  1. Dissolve the brown sugar in 1/3 cup boiling water. Once the sugar is dissolved, add in 1/3 cup cold water to bring down the temperature.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the rice flour and make a well in the center. Stir in the brown sugar water and stir to combine. Once combined,knead the dough in the bowl for 5 minutes and shape into a ball. Dough should be soft, pliable and smooth; add more flour or water if need be to adjust the consistency.
  3. Roll the dough into a log, and then divide the log into 12 even pieces. Dust your hands with a little rice flour and form each piece into a ball roughly the size of a large walnut.
  4. With the palm of your hands, flatten the dough balls into disks. Place 1/4 teaspoon redbean paste and a piece of banana in the center of each of the disks. Gather the sides toward the center and pinch close. Gently roll in the palms of your hands to reshape into a ball. Repeat with the remaining balls. Once all the balls are filled and formed, roll in the sesame seeds to coat thoroughly.
  5. Heat 3 inches of oil in a pot or wok to 350 degrees F, or until a piece of dough browns in 15 seconds.
  6. Deep-fry the sesame seed balls, a few at a time, until the sesame seeds are golden and the balls float to the surface, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Best served warm.

[1] Nguyen, A. (2009). Asian dumplings: Mastering gyōza, spring rolls, samosas, and more. Berkeley [Calif.: Ten Speed Press.

[2] Smiling sesame-ball cookies for the Chinese New Year – Chatelaine. (2014, January 30). Retrieved October 31, 2015.

[3] Ibid.

One response to “Bon Appetit Wednesday! Sesame Balls (Jian Dui)

  1. Can I substitute wheat flour, or does anyone know of an organic sweet rice flour I could buy? Thanks

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