Chinese New Year is a very special day in our family. It is the only day of the whole year that Popo allows us to consume junk food in mass quantities. So naturally, Low Dao prepared a buffet of deep-fried, cholesterol-rich items for the New Year feeding frenzy ritual. On the menu were some of our favorites like deep-fried garlic chicken, deep-fried breaded pork chops, and of course, jin dui.
Jin dui is best described as little deep-fried sesame balls of goodness filled with coconut, pork or sweet red beans. You often see them floating around the dim sum restaurants in metal carts along with other deep-fried goodies.
There is nothing like jin dui fresh out of the wok. Family as distant as cousins of in-laws descend upon the house like flies all waiting for a little deep-fried sesame ball. I’m not sure if eating jin dui on Chinese New Year is a real Chinese tradition or one that we made up. In any case, this has become a beloved tradition in our family, one that I hope to continue for generations to come. The only problem with this is that my father-in-law is the only person I know who knows how to make jin dui, and he has the entire painstaking process stored in his seventy-year-old brain. So I decided to learn how to make jin doi.
When I told my mother in law that I would pass the tradition down so that our little haole and half-Japanese grandchildren could enjoy jin dui she said, “By that time I hope the jin dui no look like donuts.”
How To Make Jin Dui – Deep Fried Sesame Balls Recipe
Note: This recipe has to be one of my favorites. Jin Dui is best when fresh out of the wok. You can make the balls up to a day ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator with a wet paper towel and plastic wrap to keep them moist. Fry just before serving.1 lb glutinous rice flour
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or cooking wine
- 1-2 c. water
- 1/2 lb. ground pork
- 1 piece of lap chong
- 1-2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
- salt to taste
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1/4 c. chopped onion
- 4 pieces of shiitake (black) mushroom – soak first to reconstitute then chop
- 3 Tbsp. peanuts
- 1/2 bag shredded coconut
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
Marinate the ground pork for one hour in sugar, oyster sauce, a dash of sesame oil (don’t use too much, the taste is very powerful), salt (to taste), and soy sauce. In a saucepan, brown the onions until translucent. Add the minced garlic for about 30 seconds, then add the ground pork and cook completely. Add shitake mushroom, lop chong and peanuts and cook until heated through. Set aside to cool.
Combine coconut, sugar, sesame seeds and cornstarch in a bowl. Slowly add a little water and mix until the mixture is pasty.
Combine the first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Slowly add the water in until the mixture is the consistency of slightly hard playdoh. You can always adjust by adding more flour to thicken or more water to soften.
Pinch the dough into golf-ball-sized balls. Place the ball in the center of your palm and with your thumb, press the center of the ball and form it into a cup or a well. Make sure the dough is not cracking or crumbling (if so, add more water) otherwise it will break apart in the oil.
Spoon a tablespoon of either the coconut or pork mixture into the center of the well and with the tips of your fingers, push the stuffing down with one hand while pinching the edges together with the other.
Be sure to seal all the cracks and roll it into a nice ball. In our family, we roll the coconut ones into balls and the pork ones into footballs so we can tell them apart. Roll the finished balls in sesame seeds. You may also see coconut jin dui marked with a dot of red food coloring.
Pour just enough oil into a wok to cover the jin dui, and heat until the oil just starts to smoke – about 300 degrees. Another way to test the oil is to drop a small piece of onion into the oil. If it sinks, the oil is too cold. If it rises to the top and starts to burn, then the oil is too hot. If it bubbles and rises to the top, but browns slowly, then the oil is just right. If the oil is not hot enough, the jin dui will soak up all the oil. Roll the jin dui into the oil from the side of the wok to avoid splashing hot oil on yourself. Don’t crowd the wok. About fifteen should fit comfortably in the average wok.
Jin doi should bubble when dropped into the wok – like champagne
Stir them in the oil carefully so they don’t break, and don’t let them sit too long in one position so they brown evenly. If you notice the jin dui are burning a little too fast, you can turn the heat down a little. After the jin dui start to brown a little (about 5 minutes), they are strong enough to start smashing. Smashing the jin dui allows the air to get into the jin dui so that they puff up. Using a Chinese wire mesh strainer and metal spatula, press firmly on the jin dui. Be sure to press straight down, otherwise you may tip the wok.
Smash and stir, smash and stir constantly like you’re playing with a nerf ball. At this point, you may need to turn the heat up (about 375 degrees). If the oil is not hot enough, the jin dui will not float back up to the top when you smash it. The more you smash, the bigger they’ll get. Continue this process until the jin dui are the size of baseballs and a nice medium brown color (about 5 minutes).
Finished Jin Doi
Scoop them out with a strainer and drain on paper towels. These are best when fresh out of the wok.
Yield: 20 to 30 jin dui
Adaptations for the Western Kitchen: For those of us who don’t own a tricked-out wok like my father-in-law’s, don’t worry. You can still make jin dui on your stovetop in a deep pot. Make sure the pot is wide enough for you to get your wire mesh tool down in there for the smashing process and deep enough so the oil doesn’t splash all over the place. You won’t be able fit as many jin dui in the pot so the process may be a little slower.