You don’t have to be Chinese to celebrate Chinese New Year, a.k.a. Spring Festival, right? This is a great opportunity to have fun experiencing some Chinese culture. As always, a big part of these festivities is enjoying satisfying food like these black sesame sweet rice balls, a traditional sweet Chinese dessert.
In Chinese tradition, especially northern China where I grew up, every family celebrates Yuan Xiao festival. It’s the 15th day after Chinese New Year’s day when a full moon appears. The sweet rice balls are served with boiling water or fermented sweet rice in a bowl, symbolizing family togetherness. Because the word for “round” sounds very similar to the word for reunion in Chinese, the round sweet rice balls came to symbolize family reunion or togetherness.
I still remember when I was about 10 years old, my parents taught me how to make these sweet rice balls. Out of a broad choice of fillings, such as sweet peanut butter, cherry paste, red bean paste, and black sesame paste, etc., the black sesame paste was always my favorite. I used to buy the packaged fillings from the store. Since the store-bought black sesame paste filling contains wheat, lard, and a large amount of sugar, it no longer fits our diet.
Because simple ingredients are used, it’s very easy to make the black sesame paste filling gluten-free, vegan, and low sugar. Not only is it healthier, it also tastes better.
Here are the five ingredients I used to make my own black sesame filling
Black sesame, roasted
You can roast the black sesame in the oven for about 10 minutes and then grind all the ingredients together in a food processor or blender to make a paste. Because coconut oil melts when the temperature is higher than 76 °F, the paste might be too soft to handle at this point. So, you can transfer the paste into the refrigerator and let it chill until it’s easy to handle. You don’t want it to chill too long, otherwise it will be too stiff to scoop, and then you’ll have to use your microwave to warm it up a bit.
Making these black sesame sweet rice balls is a lot like playing with play-dough. Why not get the kids involved in making this healthy treat, making it fun for the whole family? You can see my mini pumpkin rice cake recipe for detailed steps of how to make sweet rice balls.
The strong aroma, nutty flavor, and ideal sweetness of these black sesame sweet rice balls, makes them go perfectly with the fermented sweet rice. The fermented sweet rice adds a nice tangy flavor to the soup. Trust me, this is the best Chinese dessert for celebrating the Chinese New Year.
- 100 grams (appx. ⅔ cup) black sesame seeds
- 30 grams coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- ¼ teaspoon pure stevia extract
- 1¼ cup sweet rice flour (or glutinous rice flour)
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat oven to 350 °F. Place black sesame seeds onto a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Let the roasted black sesame seeds cool slightly and then transfer them into a food processor. Blend with the remaining filling ingredients until smooth. If your coconut oil is solid, warm it up in microwave. It’s much easier to mix when it is in a liquid form.
- Transfer the black sesame seeds paste into a bowl and let it chill slightly in refrigerator. Approximately 8-10 minutes.
- Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl. The dough should be very smooth and not sticky
- Measure approximately 23 grams of the sweet rice dough and roll it between your palms to form a smooth ball. Use your thumb to push a cone shaped cavity into the center of each ball that will hold the filling.
- Use a small spoon to measure approximately 6 grams of the black sesame seed paste, Fill the dough cavity with the filling and gently pinch the opening of the dough together to close and form a smooth ball again. Finish all the dough.
- In a saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil over medium high heat. Add the sweet rice balls and cover the saucepan with lid until the water is boiling again. Remove the lid and keep the water boiling. When all the balls float to the surface and are rolling with the boil, the balls are cooked.
- Serve warm as is or with fermented sweet rice.
The leftover filling can be stored in refrigerator up to a month. You can use it as a filling for bread or other pastries.