Indeed, food has a wonderful way of bringing smiles to people’s faces and is some of life’s simplest joys.
These smiling sesame balls are a traditional snack, simple and humble in appearance compared to the colourful array of trendy Chinese New Year goodies flooding the market in recent years. They might seem plain and unattractive to the Instagram generation, but to the older folks, the humble sesame balls are a meaningful way of welcoming joy and happiness into the new year.
Cheung says: “The good thing about smiling sesame balls is that they can be stored for ages without affecting their taste or appearance. In classic versions, you might find fillings of lotus or red bean paste, but these days people are eating healthier and wanting to cut down on sugar, so now we make them without fillings.”
He fears that as traditional chefs grow older and retire without successors, the art of making traditional Chinese New Year goodies will soon be lost.
“Once you cut the dough into little pieces, roll them into balls and cover them in sesame seeds, you just need to fry them up. The most important thing is to pick a good, fresh oil. Don’t use oil that has been used to fry other things. If you want to get a light, crisp texture, you cannot put the balls in when the oil is too hot and vigorous. You should just use a warm oil that’s about 40 to 50°C,” he shares.
“When the balls are almost done, turn up the heat and when they are ready, they’ll float and the surface of the balls will split into ‘smiles’. The final and most vital step is to turn up the heat to high and force the oil out. If you don’t do that, the finished result will tend to be oily.”
Watch the video below as Cheung demonstrates his recipe.
Smiling Sesame Balls
Makes 24 pieces
150g plain flour
15g vegetable oil
20g custard powder
5g soda powder
10g baking ammonia
White sesame seeds
1. Mix all the ingredients except the plain flour and white sesame seeds together well.
2. Sift the flour in bit by bit, mixing well and kneading into a dough.
3. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces and roll them into balls.
4. Coat each ball with white sesame seeds.
5. Fry in oil that is between 40 and 50°C until the balls are almost done, then turn up the heat and deep-fry them at 130°C till golden brown. When done, the balls will float and split into “smiles”.