How to Make Spheres of Fortune

Chewy, crispy rice-flour dumplings with sweet filling.

Crispy Sesame Ball on top of Chinese Cup

Chinese  families come together to welcome the brand new year by breaking out colorful lanterns, vibrant lion dances, and traditional delicacies. Platters of sticky rice balls, their round shape a symbol of good luck, are found on appetizer and dessert tables everywhere alongside other sweet dumplings in so many shapes and sizes.


Iron wire strainer, rolling pin, round cookie cutter (9 cm or larger in diameter), ladle

For the red bean paste:

1 cup red beans (200 g)
¼ cup butter (50 g)
½ cup sugar (80 g)
Cook the red beans until soft, and drain. With a mixer, whip the red beans until smooth. Place in a pan, add in butter and sugar, and stir fry on high heat until well combined.

For glutinous rice sesame balls:

5 cups pure glutinous rice flour (550 g)
½ cup raw sesame seeds (100 g)
⅞ cup fine sugar (150 g)
350 ml water
1,500 ml vegetable oil

1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water, and heat on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to under 50  ºC. Add in the glutinous rice flour, and combine until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Separate 1/10 of the dough, and place in boiling water for one minute. Remove, and knead the cooked dough into the raw dough to combine evenly.

2. Roll out the dough to 4mm thick (dust the surface and rolling pin with flour to prevent the dough from sticking), and cut out rounds 9 cm in diameter using a cookie cutter. Cover half of all the rounds with a layer of the red bean paste (keeping about 3mm away from the edges), then place the other rounds on top of each one, like sandwiches. Press the edges of the two pieces together, and dust with sesame seeds.

3. Place the formed dumplings, one at a time, in a pot with oil heated to 90 ºC , then bring to 150 ºC. To keep it cooking evenly, use a ladle to pour oil on top while frying, and turn over several times using a wire strainer. When the dough begins puffing up, raise the heat gradually to 180 ºC~200 ºC. Fry until the dough appears golden and firm. Once done, remove and place onto oil-absorbing paper.


Flour in different areas contains different levels of moisture, so make sure to add water slowly and gradually. If the dough is too dry, add a bit more water to allow the sesame seeds to stick. Rolling the dough out on a piece of plastic wrap will make it easier to lift up. Oil temperature is important: too low, and the crust won’t puff up; too high, and it will harden up before it has finished cooking. A temperature of 150 ºC is recommended.


Styling and photography by Hsuyi Shih

Original Print Article published in January/February 2016