Chinese Smiling Sesame Cookie Balls

January 20, 2020mayurisjikoni
Blog post



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.

FoodieMonday/Bloghop Group

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.

Dietary Tips:

Chinese Smiling Sesame Cookie Balls are not meant for those on a gluten free, vegan or satvik diet.

chinese smiling ball 3

chinese smiling ball 6

can you see the smile or laugh?

chinese smiling ball 4

chinese smiling ball 7

crunchy outside and melt in the mouth inside texture.

chinese smiling ball 5


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

  1. Mix sugar and hot water. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
  2. In the meantime sift plain flour, cornflour, baking powder, soda bicarbonate and salt together in a big mixing bowl.
  3. Add egg and oil to the sugar and water mixture. Whisk it.
  4. Pour the wet ingredient into the dry ingredient mixture.
  5. Mix and bring the dough together.
  6. Knead it gently till it comes together. Do not over knead the dough.
  7. Cover the dough with a plate or damp cloth and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.
  8. Pinch about a ½ teaspoonful of  the dough and roll it into a ball.
  9. Repeat step 8 with the remaining dough.
  10. Put the sesame seeds in a small bowl or plate.
  11. 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.
  12. Repeat step 11 for all the balls. If you don’t dampen the ball with water, the seeds will not stick.
  13. Heat oil in a wok or kadai over medium low heat.
  14. Drop a tiny piece of the dough into the oil. If it comes up immediately, the oil is ready.
  15. Fry about 6-8 balls together, turning them over gently so they brown evenly.
  16. Fry them till they become golden brown in colour.
  17. Remove the fried sesame balls into a colander.
  18. Serve when they have cooled down a bit as the inside will be very hot.
  19. 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.

Pin for later:

chinese smiling balls

A little request:

If you do try this recipe then please either

  • add a comment below,
  • send a picture to my email
  •  tag me as #mayuri_jikoni on Instagram
  • or tag me on Twitter as #Mayuri1962


  • The Girl Next Door

    January 21, 2020 at 9:27 am

    These ‘Laughing Balls’ are so cute! Yes, I can see the ‘laugh’. 🙂

    Trust you to come up with an authentic, unique recipe like this. Loved it totally. 🙂 Now, could you pass me that platter, please?

    1. mayurisjikoni

      January 23, 2020 at 9:08 pm

      Thanks Priya, come over, you’re not too far, I’ve still got a few in the jar 🙂

      1. The Girl Next Door

        January 24, 2020 at 7:21 am


  • Swati

    January 21, 2020 at 9:50 pm

    Beautiful smiling cookies with sesame seeds on top!! Look so inviting, will surely give this one a there any substitute for egg in it or we can skip egg for eggfree version?

    1. mayurisjikoni

      January 23, 2020 at 9:07 pm

      Thanks Swati, I’m not sure how the eggless ones would turn out. You could perhaps use the egg replacer you get there.

  • Batter Up With Sujata

    January 22, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    Smiling sesame cookie balls looks so cute Mayuri. I can imagine the crunchy outside and soft inside texture. Sesame seeds made these cookies more attractive. Loved the recipe. I will try it sometime.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      January 23, 2020 at 9:04 pm

      Thank you so much Sujata, the taste actually reminded me of shakarpara.

  • Ghulam Mohyudin

    January 25, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    It was perfect the first time. This is very really unique helpful information. I learn so much from you as well! Keep it up.

  • Poonam Bachhav

    January 25, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    Loved reading about the traditions associated with Chinese New Year in your post di . The smilling cookies indeed look so cute ! Perfect festive treat !

    1. mayurisjikoni

      January 25, 2020 at 7:30 pm

      Thank you so much Poonam. The smiling cookies also tasted really good, it reminded me of sakarpara.

  • Preethi Prasad

    January 26, 2020 at 5:28 am

    Smiling Cookie balls looks super cute and Inviting. Loved this authentic delicacy to usher in the new year with family and friends.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      January 26, 2020 at 1:14 pm

      Thank you so much Preethi, I’m so glad you suggested the theme so that I ventured out to try this recipe.

  • Vasusvegkitchen

    January 26, 2020 at 9:45 pm

    Di I always loves to read the information which you write for almost all recipes 😊. Laughing balls looks very cute with perfect texture. The way sesame seeds on laughing balls fried with cracks is very tempting👌.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      January 28, 2020 at 7:18 pm

      Thank you so much Aruna, please do try the recipe, the smiling balls are delicious and a fun food for kids.

  • Renu Agrawal Dongre

    January 27, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    I am loving this recipe and the name. Smiling cookies, and yes I can see the cookies smile. This is completely new to me and would love to try this for my kids giving them some intro so that they can use their imagination to find the smile. 🙂

    1. mayurisjikoni

      January 28, 2020 at 7:09 pm

      Thanks Renu, I’m sure they will love them. Please do try out the recipe.

  • namscorner18

    February 25, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    These cookies look so cute and tempting. I am sure this is kids delight and they will enjoy them. Loved reading about these cookies

    1. mayurisjikoni

      February 26, 2020 at 12:27 am

      Thank you so much Narmadha.

  • shobhakeshwani

    March 3, 2020 at 12:19 am

    These look so cute and inviting . I love the sesame seeds flavour. The recipe is somewhat like doughnuts

    1. mayurisjikoni

      March 4, 2020 at 10:15 pm

      Thanks Shobha, yes they tasted like the quick version of doughnuts we sometimes make.

  • Sandhya

    April 12, 2020 at 10:18 pm

    I have never made these and your recipe and photos explains it so well! Great share!

    1. mayurisjikoni

      April 14, 2020 at 6:07 pm

      Thank you so much Sandhya…I’m so grateful for the themes I follow otherwise I too would have missed making such a wonderful treat.

  • Mireille Roc (@ChefMireille)

    April 13, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    These look so good. I definitely want to try these. Wish I could just grab one of them from the screen.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      April 14, 2020 at 6:05 pm

      Thanks Mireille, try them out…mine disappeared in no time

  • Jolly

    April 13, 2020 at 10:10 pm

    These smiling cookies looking extremely cute. these cookies are to die for, I’ve never tasted it but feels like their flavors are similar to sesame barley cookies, those are baked and yours is fried cookies.These are the perfect for any occasions!

    1. mayurisjikoni

      April 14, 2020 at 6:03 pm

      Thank you so much Jolly, they actually taste like our local shakarpara.

  • jayashreetrao

    April 14, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    These cookies look so cute and interesting with that sesame covered over them. Good info about the Chinese New Year.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      April 14, 2020 at 6:00 pm

      Thank you so much Jayashree.

  • Priya Srinivasan

    April 14, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    Super cute chinese smiling cookie balls! Love that sesame seeds studded top! Crunchy top and softer inside, such a delicious one!!

    1. mayurisjikoni

      April 16, 2020 at 4:04 pm

      Thank you so much Priya.

  • Sasmita Sahoo Samanta

    April 16, 2020 at 6:53 am

    So cute looking cookies these are. So crunchy outside and melt in the mouth inside texture. I love to make these sometime sure. Seems quite easy and simple.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      April 16, 2020 at 3:55 pm

      Thanks Sasmita, and yes they are simple to make and so delicious. Try them.


    July 29, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    Wow! these are so cute and sound delicious. I love simple recipes so one of these days jab meri satkegi I will try making them. They certainly will disappear in my place.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      July 29, 2020 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks Archana, do try them they are so delicious. Nami’s friends finished them in no time.

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