Black Sesame Balls 芝麻湯圓(Dessert)

Winter Solstice is one of the most important festivals of the year for Chinese people. One traditional food that must be served is the glutinous rice balls (“Tang Yuan”). These rice balls symbolize family reunion, so family members usually would get together and have a nice dinner on this day. It’s also served during the Lunar New Year.

I personally like both savory and sweet rice balls, but my family prefers the sweet ones. These Tang Yuan can be found in the frozen section at the Asian supermarkets. We used to get those but found out they were made with lard. Why not make your own with healthier ingredients?!

Ingredients for filling:

65gGranulated Sugar
110gRoasted black sesame powder
60gMelted unsalted butter

Ingredients for dough:

250g Glutinous rice flour
140gBoiling water
70gRoom temperature water

Ingredients for syrup base:

800 mlWater
200gRock sugar (adjust the amount to your taste)

Directions – making the filling:

  1. Combine black sesame powder and sugar in a bowl, add in melted butter and water, mix well. (Pictures 1-3)
  2. Put the sesame mixture into a sandwich size ziploc bag, pat it flat and put in the freezer until hardened. (Picture 4)
  3. When filling is firm, lay the sesame filling on a chopping board and cut into approximately 1cm x 1cm cubes. You can make 27-30 cubes. (Picture 5 & 6)
  4. Roll each cube into a ball in your palms. (Picture 7)
  5. Once you got all the balls ready, put them back in the freezer until you finish preparing the dough. The purpose of cooling the balls is to harden the filling mixture for easy handling later. (Picture 8)

Directions – making dough:

  1. While the filling is cooling, make the dough.
  2. Measure out 250g of glutinous flour in a mixing bowl. Bring 140g of water to a boil, slowly add into the mixing bowl with flour and stir immediately. Then add in room temperature water and knead the dough until combined, about 2 minutes. The dough should be smooth and slightly tacky to the touch, but not sticky. Cover the dough and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Pictures 1 & 2)
  3. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll out each dough and cut into small pieces (about 27-30 pieces in total), this should match the number of filling pieces. Keep the dough pieces covered with a plastic wrap while assembling to prevent the dough from getting dry. (Picture 3)
  4. Take each dough and use your thumb to press into the ball and create a small concave bowl (Picture 4)
  5. Add the chilled sesame filling to the center and close the dough over the filling. (Pictures 5 & 6)
  6. Roll the ball around in your palms until it’s smooth and round. (Picture 7)
  7. Repeat Steps 3-5 until you have made all the sesame balls. (Picture 8)
  8. While assembling the sesame balls, bring a medium pot of water and rock sugar to a boil. And add in sesame balls and stir to prevent them from sticking. When the sesame balls float to the top, cook for 2 more minutes and they are ready to eat. (Pictures 9-11)

Note: Uncooked sesame balls can be frozen separately on a baking sheet until firm, then grouped and sealed in a freezer bag. Do not defrost frozen sesame balls before cooking them, just add the frozen balls to the boiling water and cook them for 5 minutes.


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