Chinese Smiling Sesame Cookie Balls
THEME: #230 CHINESE NEW YEAR
Chinese New Year 2020
Gong hei fat choy is the Greeting for Chinese New Year in Cantonese and Gong xi fa cai (pronounced gong she fa tsai) in Madarin. Basically it means wishing you great happiness and prosperity. This year Chinese New Year, Spring Festival and also known as Lunar New Year falls on 25th January. Like most Indian festivals, Chinese New Year doesn’t fall on the same day every year as it follows the lunar calendar. Did you know that the New Year festival usually lasts 15 days?
How is Chinese New Year Celebrated?
Its a day for praying to God, for good harvest and planting. People also pray to their ancestors. A vast variety of food is also offered. According to a legend the monster Nian would come every New Year’s Eve. As a result people would hide in their homes but one brave boy fought the monster by using fire crackers. Thus began the tradition of setting off firecrackers on New Year’s Eve to scare the monster and bad luck. This is one festival that is spent with family and friends and as a result the largest migration of humans happens around Chinese New Year as people are traveling to be with family. As in other cultures, children receive money in red envelopes. This signifies transferring fortune from elders to children. Homes are decorated with red as its believed that it scares the monsters away. So you’ll find red lanterns, red door couplets, red paper cuttings.
Chinese New Year and Food
Like any festival world over, Chinese New Year is celebrated with a huge variety of food with family and friends. Starting from appetizers to desserts most of the dishes prepared have some significance and meaning.
Spring Rolls which are long wrappers filled with meat and or vegetables, that resemble gold bars and therefore signify wealth and wish all those who eat it prosperity.
- Dumplings look like silver ingots and signify wealth and wish everyone who enjoys them wealth and treasure.
- Fish indicates an increase in prosperity.
- Sweet Rice Balls signify family togetherness.
- Noodles signify longevity and happiness.
- Eating a glutinous rice cake will bring a higher income or position.
- Eating oranges and tangerines during Chinese New Year symbolize fullness and wealth.
- Chinese New Year and Cookies
Like other food varieties prepared for the Chines New Year, the cookies and desserts prepared also have some meaning, symbolize something. Most of the cookies signify happiness, good luck, prosperity and good health. Chinese Smiling Sesame Cookie Balls are no different. The natural cracks on the balls look like smiles or a laughing mouth. Serving these cookies means that you’re wishing whoever has them smiles, happiness and laughter.
Some Simple Chinese Dishes you may like to check out:
Coconut Buns or Chinese Cocktail Buns are coconut paste filled buns created in HongKong in the 1950s. Whenever hubby I go out for a Chinese meal (not Indo Chinese), we both love to order a dish that is loaded with pak choy. I make Pak Choi, Beans Sprouts and Noodle Soup often. I can finish a whole bowlful of Spicy Tofu on its own. Have you ever tried a simple dish of stir fried pak choi and snow peas? You must. Its one of the dishes I enjoy whenever we go out for a Chinese meal.
Sesame Seeds and Chinese Cooking
Sesame Seeds are widely used in Chinese cooking right from the famous Sesame Rice balls, cookies, to sprinkling it on noodles, dumplings and sauces. Sesame seed oil is a vital ingredient in Chinese Cooking. How sesame seeds reached China is unclear as its believed the they originate from Africa and India. Before it found its way into the cooking scene, sesame oil was used for lighting lamps. Sesame seeds are considered to bring good luck and good health.
Chinese Smiling Sesame Cookie Balls
Also known as the laughing balls because of the natural crack or as Xiao Kou Zao or deep fried sesame balls, are not difficult to make. The dough should be pliable and not dry, when you roll the balls they should not crack but must be smooth. The temperature of the oil in which the balls are fried should not be too hot or too cold. If its too hot, the balls brown easily on the outside and remain raw from inside. If the oil temperature is too low then they may not crack and they will be oily. Heating the oil over medium to low medium is important. These cookie balls are usually served as snacks, dessert or given as gifts during the festival.
You must be wondering why I’m writing about Chinese New Year. Well, the theme for this week, suggested by Preethi is all about preparing a dish for the Chinese New year. She has made an interesting Steamed Eggplant, Chinese Style for the theme and I like her Healthy Vegetarian Chinese Soup .
My decision to make Chinese Smiling Sesame Cookie Balls
I must admit that when Preethi suggested Chinese New Year dishes, I was very excited as that meant something totally different to prepare. And I do love trying out dishes that I’ve not had before. My research took me to glutinous rice cakes, spongy cakes, turnip cakes, osmanthus jelly, rice balls, peanut and sesame cookies, almond cookies, fortune cookies and so much more. The problem was I was not able to get glutinous rice, there is no way I could get fresh osmanthus flowers so had to look for a recipe where ingredients were easier to get. When I came across the recipe for Smiling balls or laughing balls, not only was I totally attracted by the name but the natural cracks on each ball. Being a sesame seed lover, the generous sesame seed coating was the third winning factor.
Chinese Smiling Sesame Cookie Balls are not meant for those on a gluten free, vegan or satvik diet.
can you see the smile or laugh?
crunchy outside and melt in the mouth inside texture.
CHINESE SMILING SESAME COOKIE BALLS/ LAUGHING BALLS
Makes about 40 – 60 depending on the size you roll
Recipe Source: The Hong Kong Cookery
2¼ cups all purpose flour (maida, plain flour)
¼ cup cornflour (cornstarch)
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp soda bicarbonate (baking soda)
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp oil/melted butter
¾ cup sugar
3 tbsp hot water
1 medium egg
¾ – 1 cup sesame seeds
oil for deep frying
- Mix sugar and hot water. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
- In the meantime sift plain flour, cornflour, baking powder, soda bicarbonate and salt together in a big mixing bowl.
- Add egg and oil to the sugar and water mixture. Whisk it.
- Pour the wet ingredient into the dry ingredient mixture.
- Mix and bring the dough together.
- Knead it gently till it comes together. Do not over knead the dough.
- Cover the dough with a plate or damp cloth and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.
- Pinch about a ½ teaspoonful of the dough and roll it into a ball.
- Repeat step 8 with the remaining dough.
- Put the sesame seeds in a small bowl or plate.
- Before you roll the dough ball in the sesame seeds, dampen your palm with water, roll the ball again and then roll it in the sesame seeds. This way the seeds will stick to the dough.
- Repeat step 11 for all the balls. If you don’t dampen the ball with water, the seeds will not stick.
- Heat oil in a wok or kadai over medium low heat.
- Drop a tiny piece of the dough into the oil. If it comes up immediately, the oil is ready.
- Fry about 6-8 balls together, turning them over gently so they brown evenly.
- Fry them till they become golden brown in colour.
- Remove the fried sesame balls into a colander.
- Serve when they have cooled down a bit as the inside will be very hot.
- Store in an airtight container.
- The dough should be pliable and not dry or sticky. If its dry add about a tsp of oil at a time.
- Roll the balls small as they will increase in size on frying. If the balls are too big, they will remain raw from the inside.
- Don’t fry the balls over high or very low heat.
- Keep the rolled balls covered with a damp cloth as they tend to dry fast.
- Dampen the rolled balls with water so that the sesame seeds stick to it well.
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