Sesame balls with coconut filling

When it comes to the Western palate I’ve learnt never to assume that what we Asians find delicious would be the same for a Westerner. But sesame balls are a safe bet. It is strange enough to the non-Asian tongue to be considered exotic. Yet ten out of ten times Westerners will embrace it as a delightful experience.

I particularly like the look on the face of someone who has never tried it take that first bite of a sesame ball and taste the dark coconut sweetness oozing out of its core.

sesame balls

Julien enjoying the sesame balls he made

Sesame balls are a popular Malaysian tea-time snack.  They are round balls covered in sesame seeds with the core filled with sweetened, grated coconut.

As varied as the different cultures in Malaysia, so are the different methods of making sesame balls. Sesame balls are made with a mixture of potato and rice flour or glutinous rice flour. You can also replace the potato with sweet potato to increase the savoury taste.

The filling that goes into these sesame balls can also differ. I used sweetened grated coconut. Other types of filling common in Malaysia are green bean paste, red bean paste and lotus seed paste.

This time I invited my young European friends who were visiting Australia as exchange students to make sesame balls with me at the farm. Elsa and Julian are from France. Rita is from Italy.

Except for Julian who hails from a little French village near the border of Switzerland, the other two are city kids. Nevertheless all three were thrilled to find out they were going to pick potatoes from the garden and help me make sesame balls.

potatoes for sesame balls

European kids picking potatoes from the garden. Potatoes used to make sesame balls

As I expected they were fascinated to pick their own food straight out of the garden and cook them. I do this all the time and yet I never get over the feeling of how connected it makes me feel to the land and nature.

In this case we could only get the potatoes out of the garden 🙂 but the rice flour was freshly ground from Australian, bio-dynamic brown rice. Unfortunately we don’t grow coconuts and so the coconuts are from Fiji which I bought from the local supermarket.

To see how I open fresh coconut, watch this

sesame balls filling

sweetened grated coconut

Grating coconut is done for you in Malaysia and it was an ordeal trying to figure out how to do yourself in Australia. I’ve asked shopkeepers, other Asians, to no avail. Some of the methods they suggested sounded dangerous to me such as using a knife to pry out the flesh from the concave half shell. Don’t do this. You will hurt yourself. Yes you do use a knife to pry out the flesh but AFTER you have smashed the shell to very small pieces. The fresher the coconut more easily the flesh will come out. Together with my husband Kevin, we have figured out the best way to open fresh coconut and grate it.

sesame seeds

sesame seeds

Sesame Balls

8 oz rice flour

10 oz potatoes or two medium size potatoes steamed till soft

2/3 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup cold kefir


1/2 coconut grated

200 gm demerera sugar

1 small pinch of ginger for flavour

1 clove pounded or ground fine

2 oz or 4 tbsp water



Have a bowl of water at hand to wet the surface of the balls

Sesame seeds should be spread out on a plate so the balls can be easily rolled over them



To make the filling, pour water into the pan and the ginger and ground clove and sugar. Let the water come to a boil to caramelize the sugar but as the water content is low this should not take long. When the sugar looks thick like caramel, add the grated coconut and mix well.

Steam the potatoes till soft and then mash them.

Mix the rice flour into the sweet potato and use the 1/4 cup kefir to fuse them properly together like a dough but not a smooth, elastic dough. As long as they cling together will be fine.

Once the caramelized grated coconut has cooled down, use it as a filling in the dough. Pinch off a small piece of the dough and form a ball. Flatten the ball in the palm of your hand. Put in about 1 tsp of filling and then fold it to close and re-shape into balls. As you are using the filling, look out for the piece of ginger because it must be removed and should not accidentally go into any of the balls. It is only to flavour the coconut filling.

As this is not a smooth dough, you can at times experience cracks in the ball, especially if you like to fill the balls with slightly more than 1 tsp of filling, like me. I think these sesame balls are so much tastier when they are bursting with the zest of the filling. So when you find cracks after re-shaping, simply patch it up with some dough.

For inexperienced cooks it is best to stick to the 1 tsp of filling because cracks can cause the balls to burst open while deep frying or cause mis-shapen balls. Most methods of making these balls have very little filling which is why I am dissatisfied when I buy them in Malaysia.

Once you have filled one ball and properly shaped it, lightly wet its surface with water so that when you roll it on the plate of sesame seeds the seeds will stick to the ball.

Once it is covered in sesame seeds deep fry the ball. You can deep fry several balls at one time, making sure to turn them over in the hot oil so they evenly brown.

Serving size: Makes 8 sesame balls

Click to watch Julien, Elsa, Rita and I make sesame balls together



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