I confess my secret love for of All-You-Can-Eat Chinese Buffets. The food is mediocre at best and as greasy as a fryer, and dishes are virtually indistinguishable from each other. The restaurant is usually of ware-house scale with uninspiring decor and unmotivated staff.
Maybe the only positive is the price for the quantity of food you can eat…. I mean, if you could. Well What is my pleasure then? Its the Sesame Balls with Red Bean Paste. This ubiquitous Chinese Buffet fare is why I go there…to eat in unlimited quantities. Somehow I only found them at these buffets. I am not even sure if they are available on their non-buffet menu.
Seeing me eat them and only-them, an intrigued colleague once mentioned how his wife makes the steamed version of these balls at home. He even brought them for me at work and they were very good, but not as nearly as the fried ones. They lacked the nuttiness of the sesame which develops as they fry. So I coaxed the fried version from his wife and tried them with substitute ingredients (ahem, guilty me). But I had a disaster with the balls leaking and not holding up at all. And I didn’t have the face to tell her that I wrecked her recipe. So I never mentioned my attempt, saved the recipe in my email archives and promptly forgot all about it. But, I still frequented Chinese buffets on a regular basis back then…there were just so many of them around my workplace.
I suddenly remembered them now…maybe because recently the internet was abuzz with these due to Chinese New Year. Don’t you love how some long lost memories awaken you with the passion to relive them? Passionate I was, but lacked the right ingredients and this time waited until I got them—all of them.
They turned out ever better than how I imagined they would taste after all these days. Only thing I was not happy about was that they were not perfect rounds…their bottoms flattened a bit as they sat in the oil for frying. If I let the oil get hot to prevent the bottoms sitting for long, sesame seeds were getting over fried. So I settled for the former despite the off shape. So now without further ado, here they are.
What you need:
1 Cup Glutinous rice flour (you’ll find it in Asian/Chinese grocery stores)
1 Can Sweetened Red Bean paste* (can be found in Asian/Chinese grocery stores)
1/4 cup Sesame seeds, untoasted
2 Tbsp brown sugar or palm sugar
1/4 cup water
1 pinch of salt
Vegetable Oil (or any neutral oil) for frying
* I used Korean Sweetened Mashed Red Beans as I did not find Red Bean Paste. If you don’t find that either, you can prepare it by soaking 1 cup Adzuki beans overnight and cooking them with equal amount of water and 1/4 cup sugar. Once cooked, mash them into a paste with the back of your spoon.
How to make them:
- In a small sauce pan boil the water and add the brown sugar and salt and stir until completely dissolved.
- Once cool enough to handle, add this sugar water little by little to the glutinous rice
- flour and mix it into smooth dough of the consistency of pizza dough. Keep aside.
- Make balls from red bean paste about the size of a grape. Its okay if the balls do not perfectly hold their shape, as canned red bean paste is a little runnier than the hard-paste like consistency preferred here. Put them in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden up.
- Slightly grease your palms and make smooth balls from the rice-about the same size as the red bean paste balls.
- Take one dough ball, flatten it on your palm and spread it out a little bit.
- Place the bean paste ball in the center and close it by pulling the dough from the side. Roll it in your palm to even out the dough and smoothen it. If you have any holes or if you can see through the bean paste from the dough skin, patch it up with a bit more dough and smoothen it.
- Place the sesame seeds in a bowl and dip the balls to coat uniformly. Keep them aside until ready to fry.
- Heat oil on a medium and fry 2-3 balls at a time. Gently keep the balls turning while pressing lightly, until the sesame seeds turn a light golden color and they start floating.
- Remove from oil and drain them on paper towels. They will keep cooking from the internal heat and sesame seeds with turn golden brown
- Allow them to cool to room temperature before serving up with tea. I love them with Chamomile tea