Her deep frying skills probably never will be up to par, because she’s afraid of being burned by hot oil.
This recipe was going really well until hot oil came into play. Fried sesame balls are made of glutinous rice dough, filled with lotus paste or red bean paste, and coated with sesame seeds. As they’re fried, the sesame balls puff up to form hollow, crispy, deliciously greasy shells. They are snipped into pac-mans with a sharp scissors and served as a traditional dim sum dessert.
That’s all in theory. Unfortunately, my matuan (or jian dui, depending where in China you are) never puffed up. To start, I scoured the web for recipes, narrowed my choices down, and decided to go with one that included sweet potato, since we had a couple lying around. We only needed 6 ounces of sweet potato, so instead of boiling them, my sister Carmel peeled the potatoes, we cut them up, and stuck them in a bowl of water in the microwave. It felt a little ridiculous to be boiling little chunks of sweet potato in a bowl of water, but they came out fine. The only adjustment I would make to the dough would be to puree the sweet potato instead of just mashing to eliminate some of the stringiness.
When the dough was ready, we cut it into around 20 pieces, flattened them into disks, and filled them with a batch of lotus paste I made from dried lotus seeds. We didn’t have any white sesame seeds, which are traditional, but we figured black seeds would do the job.
The deep frying part is not really something I want to talk about. I’ll just say that I put on a sweatshirt because I didn’t want to get burnt, and stood over a way-too-full pot of 300 degree oil holding a candy thermometer and sweating out several Bikram classes’ worth of toxins. My matuan didn’t puff. They just sat at the bottom of the saucepan, looking heavy and soaking up oil. Eventually some of them bobbed up to the surface, so I scooped them up and set them out to recover on a bed of paper towel.
On the plus side, I did get the flavors right. The lotus paste was terrific, better than the first time I made it, and some of you know that I’ve never met a glutinous rice dough I didn’t like.
I also learned that when I tackle donuts, they’re gonna be baked.