Let’s learn how to make delicious deep fried Nian Gao Sesame Balls. This classic chinese snack is crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Also known as Jian Dui (煎堆), these are filled gooey sweet Chinese New Year cake. Just delicious!
Watch How To Make Fried Nian Gao Sesame Balls – Recipe Video
Let’s Make Deep Fried Nian Gao Sesame Balls, A Delicious Nian Gao Snack
These Fried Nian Gao Sesame Balls are similar to Jian Dui (煎堆), a sesame ball with lotus paste, red bean paste or peanut filling and is a dim sum favourite as well as a popular snack especially during festive season. The only difference is these are filled with Nian Gao (sweet rice cake) and both are deep fried to a golden perfection.
These beautiful sesame balls certainly make a wonderful and perfect addition to your Chinese New Year dessert, especially so when you have left-over Nian Gao after the Lunar New Year. They are like deep fried mochi balls. They are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside and are delicious accompanied with freshly brewed hot Chinese tea. And they make such a sweet ending to a sumptuous meal during the festive season. So let’s start cooking!
What is Sesame Balls 芝麻球?
Sesame Balls, sometimes called Jian Dui (煎堆) are deep fried glutinous rice balls and are usually filled with either lotus, red bean or peanut paste. A compact coating of sesame seeds on the surface makes these balls burst with sesame flavour and the glutinous rice flour gives it a chewy and sticky bite. Sesame Balls bought commercially are usually made with only glutinous rice flour. They tend to have a thicker, harder and crunchier exterior with a small amount of filling in the middle.
Homemade Sesame Balls sometimes come with mashed sweet potato (orange or yellow sweet potato) added to the dough. This makes the sesame balls slightly softer. The mashed sweet potato also gives these Jian Dui a nice golden colour surface, contrasting beautifully with the white sesame seeds coating.
What is Fried Nian Gao Sesame Balls?
These Fried Nian Gao Sesame Balls are made of glutinous rice flour with mashed sweet potato added to the dough. The sweet potato used is preferably of the yellow or orange variety and not the purple sweet potato as purple colour does not give a beautiful contrast to the surface of the sesame balls. They are filled with small Nian Gao (sweet rice cake) cubes. The Nian Gao filled glutinous rice balls are then rolled in sesame seeds and then deep fried to a golden colour perfection.
Ingredients Needed To Make Fried Nian Gao Sesame Balls
- Sweet Potato (mashed)
- Glutinous Rice Flour
- Baking Soda
- Water (hot)
- Sesame Seeds
- Sweet Rice Cake (Nian Gao 年糕) – See Previous Recipe on Homemade Caramel Nian Gao
How to Make Fried Nian Gao Sesame Balls? An Overview
- Skin, steam and mash sweet potatoes
- Mix together glutinous rice flour, baking soda, sugar with hot water. Knead into a smooth dough.
- Roll the dough into a log and cut into small and equal pieces.
- Cut the steamed sweet rice cake into small cubes.
Making Nian Gao Sesame Balls:
- Roll each small dough into a ball, make an indentation and place Nian Gao cubes in the middle. Wrap around the Nian Gao, pinch and roll into a smooth round ball. Repeat for the rest of the small doughs.
- Prepare a bowl of water and a plate of sesame seeds. Dip the round balls into water and then rolled in sesame seeds. Compact the sesame seeds into the surface of balls by rolling them between your two palms.
Deep Fry Nian Gao Sesame Balls:
- Pour oil into pot, to at least more than halfway submerged for the sesame balls. Heat oil using low heat until small bubbles start to appear.
- Stage 1: Gently drop sesame balls into oil and fry over low heat till sesame balls float. This will take about 3-5 minutes.
- Stage 2: When sesame balls float, use the bottom of a ladle to move the sesame balls around the pot. Also to press down on the sesame balls when frying. This will make the sesame balls stay round and become bigger. This takes about 6-8 minutes.
- Stage 3: Bring up the heat to medium high to heat up the oil. Continue to fry by moving the sesame balls around using the ladle. The heated oil will crisp up the sesame balls on the outside and turn golden brown in colour.
- When the sesame balls have all turned golden brown and feels solid, remove from pot and drained on paper towel.
What Type Of Utensils Are Suitable To Fry the Sesame Balls?
Recommended Types Of Pots And Pans:
- The most ideal pot/pan to use to deep fry the sesame balls is one with a large flat bottom as it will be much faster to fry and also can prevent overcrowding. The disadvantage is you may need to use more oil.
- If using a wok, choose a wok with a flat bottom. This is because the balls will roll from the slope of the wok to the flat centre to be deep fried.
- If using a saucepan, choose one that is bigger so you do not need to fry in too many batches. Otherwise it will be too overcrowded and the sesame balls may not be able to get bigger. The only benefit of using a saucepan is that less oil is needed. But it will take a longer time to deep fry.
Recommended Types Of Tools To Rotate The Sesame Balls:
- A sieve with smooth bottom.
- A ladle/slotted spoon with smooth bottom as it can assist to press down the sesame balls to make them bigger.
- Do not use sieves or slotted spoons which has wires at the bottom as the wires can break the surface of the sesame balls.
How To Serve Fried Nian Gao Sesame Balls?
These are best served warm or at room temperature with freshly brewed Chinese tea, preferably Jasmine or Chrysanthemum tea.
Important Recipe Tips To Make Fried Nian Gao Sesame Balls
For Preparing Dough:
- Use yellow or orange sweet potato for the dough. Try not to use purple sweet potato as the colour will not turn out beautiful for the sesame balls.
- Must use boiling water to mix the glutinous rice flour so that the skin for the sesame seeds will not crack.
- Use only about 100-120ml of hot water for this recipe. Do not continue to add hot water just because it looks dry as once the sugar melts when kneading it will form into a smooth dough.
- To test if the dough is ready, just take a pinch of dough and roll into a ball. If it forms into a glutinous rice ball and does not crack, then the dough is ready to be used.
For Preparing Filling:
- Cut firm Nian Gao (sweet rice cake) into cubes. If the Nian Gao is soft, you can always chill in refrigerator to firm up before wrapping with the dough.
For Making Nian Gao Sesame Balls:
- Roll the dough into a log before cutting into small pieces. This will make dividing the dough into equal pieces easier. You can divide the dough into big or small sesame balls.
- To make a perfect sesame ball, first roll the dough into a smooth and round ball. Then using your finger, make a hole in the centre to hold the filling. Then wrap around the filling and pinch to secure. This way, it is very easy to wrap.
- Use a different hand to dip the sesame balls in water and to roll in the sesame seeds so so you don’t get messy sesame seeds-covered fingers. Otherwise you can use a spoon to coat the sesame seeds.
- Roll the coated sesame seeds firmly with your two palms to press the seeds onto the surface.
For Deep Frying Nian Gao:
- Add a generous amount of oil. The level of the oil must be able to submerged more than half of the sesame balls. You can recycle the oil for other uses as it will still be clean and infused with the fragrance from the sesame seeds.
- Heat oil using low heat. You can test if oil is ready by inserting a pair of chopsticks into the oil and small bubbles appear around it. Otherwise you can drop a pinch of dough into the oil. When small bubbles start to appear around it, you can gently put in the sesame balls.
- If the temperature of oil is just right when you drop in the sesame balls, they should stay at the bottom of the pot and you should see only small bubbles appear around it. If you see lots of bubbles, it means the oil is too hot and the surface of the sesame balls will be cooked too fast. So when the inner part of the sesame balls get heated up, they will burst open. Hence it is better to put the sesame balls in the oil when the temperature is low than when the temperature is high.
- Move the sesame balls around gently when deep frying so they do not get stuck on the bottom of the pan.
- Once the sesame balls start to float, use the bottom of a ladle to move the balls around the pot. This will ensure the balls stay round. Also press down on the sesame balls as you rotate the balls. This will make the sesame balls bigger. Make sure to keep the temperature of the oil low. Otherwise the sesame balls will not get much bigger.
- Be gentle as you rotate the sesame balls around the pot with the back of the ladle to prevent splattering of the hot oil.
- When the sesame seeds has become bigger, increase the heat to medium high and get to oil heated up. This will allow the sesame balls to crisp up on the outside and turn golden brown in colour. Do not remove the sesame seeds too early or they will deflate. Make sure sesame balls get evenly fried.
- When the sesame balls have turn golden brown, test for doneness by carefully touching it with your finger and it should feel firm. This is because a crust has formed on the surface. Time to remove from the pot.
Other Nian Gao Recipes You May Like:
- Homemade Caramel Nian Gao Recipe (Sticky Rice Cake / Kuih Bakul) 焦糖年糕
- Fried Nian Gao Sandwiches (Glutinous Rice Cake Fritters With Yam and Sweet Potato) 炸年糕芋头木薯三文治
- Steamed Nian Gao with Coconut 椰丝蒸年糕
- Pan Fried Nian Gao with Egg 煎年糕
Fried Nian Gao Sesame Balls 炸年糕芝麻球
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Ingredients for Dough:
- 100 grams sweet potato, yellow or orange, steamed and mashed
- 300 grams glutinous rice flour, sifted
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 100 ml water , hot or boiling
- 150 grams sugar
- 40 grams sesame seeds
Ingredients for Filling:
- 250 grams rice cake, Nian Gao, cut into 16 pieces, ½ inch in length
- First skin and cut the sweet potatoes into small pieces. Place in a steamer and steam for 10 minutes until soft. Remove from heat and mash sweet potatoes with a potato masher. Set aside to allow it to cool.
- Place the mashed sweet potato in a large mixing bowl. When it is cool enough to handle, mix in sifted glutinous rice flour and baking soda. Then add in 100ml of boiling water. Using a spatula or spoon, stir to mix well. Next add in sugar and mix everything together. Then using your hand, knead the flour mixture into a smooth dough. Cover and set aside while we prepare the filling.
- Remove banana leaves from Nian gao (rice cake). Cut the Nian gao into ½ inch cubes.
- To make the sesame balls, first roll the dough into a long strip and divide into 16 equal pieces. Roll each small dough into a ball. Then using your index finger make a hole in the centre of the ball and shape it into a small little bowl. Place a cube of Nian gao in the middle and wrap dough around the rice cake filling and pinch to seal. Roll the dough ball between your two palms to form a smooth round ball. Repeat with the rest of the cut dough.
- Then prepare a bowl of water and a plate of sesame seeds.
- Dip each sesame ball into a small bowl of water (shake off excess water) and then put in the plate filled with sesame seeds and coat it. (use a different hand for each action so you don't get messy sesame seeds-covered fingers). After coating with the sesame seeds, roll each ball firmly between the palms of your hands to make sure the sesame seeds stick very well to the surface of the balls.
- Repeat for all the other dough balls. And we are ready to deep fry the sesame balls.
- Before deep frying, be sure to roll again the sesame balls to make sure that the sesame seeds will stick well on the surface of the balls.
- Deep fry the sesame balls in batches. To deep fry, first pour in a generous amount of oil in the pot and heat using LOW heat. The oil is ready when you see small bubbles start to appear around a pair of chopsticks inserted in the centre of the pot. Gently place the sesame balls into the oil and cook gently. Keep the heat at LOW.
- STAGE 1: Fry the sesame balls on low heat for 3-5 minutes. The sesame balls should stay at the bottom of the pot. Move the sesame balls around gently with a pair of chopsticks so that they do not get stuck on the bottom of the pot. During this stage, the sesame balls will get cooked slowly from the inside. Fry till the sesame balls float up.
- Stage 2: Continue to fry the sesame balls on low heat for 6-8 minutes.Now use the bottom of a ladle to move the sesame balls around the pot. When all the sesame balls are completely floated, continue to rotate and press down on the balls with the ladle when moving the sesame balls around. During this stage, the sesame balls will grow bigger with the pressing on the balls and stay in a round shape with the circular movement with the ladle.
- Stage 3: Fry on medium high heat for 3-5 minutes for the sesame balls to crisp up. Increase heat to medium high and let the oil get heated up. Continue to move the sesame balls around. During this stage, we want the sesame balls to crisp up on the outside and turn golden brown in colour. Keep rotating the balls gently and make sure all the sides get fried and crisp up.
- When all have turned golden brown, take one out and carefully touch it and it should feel solid. This means a crust has formed and its time to remove from the pot. Remove with a strainer and drained on paper towel.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with hot chinese tea and enjoy!
Making Nian gao Sesame Balls:
Deep Frying Sesame Balls:
- Be careful and gently move the sesame balls around during the deep frying process to avoid hot oil splattering.
- Refer to the Recipe Tips & Recommended Utensils in the post for more details.