Yummy, chewy butchi balls

The more we tried to explain, the more confused she became. My friend finally asked for pen and paper and drew balls with sesame seeds all around then showed it to her. The waitress’ face lighted up and she said “Oh, sesame balls. Yes.”

Sink your teeth into one of my all-time Chinese delectable treats—those crunchy-on-the-outside but soft-in-the-inside dough balls called buchi, or sesame balls.

Sesame rice balls are sticky rice dough molded into small balls and stuffed with a sweet bean paste. The dough balls are then rolled all over sesame seeds and deep-fried under high heat before serving. There are other options for the filling like sweet black bean paste, lotus paste among others.

One time, the craving for sesame balls struck and I co-worker and I went to this not-so-popular Chinese restaurant in Garapan, Saipan. We checked the menu but didn’t find it, so we took our chance to ask the waitress.

The waitress spoke zero English and we spoke zero Chinese. We tried to motion with our hands what we wanted, motioning with our hands and trying to explain, “You know, round small balls with sesame seeds, then you fry– you know, fry? (this accompanied by mimicking the sizzling sounds of hot oil in a skillet)…”

The harder we tried to explain, the more confused she became. My friend finally asked for pen and paper and drew balls with sesame seeds all around then showed it to her. The waitress’ face lighted up and she said “Oh, sesame balls. Yes.”

That’s what we had been repeating to her again and again, but I guess she understood my friend’s drawing more than our words.  We got our order, nice end to the story.

Sesame balls are known as butchi or butsi in the Philippines, matuan in northern China, ma yuan in northeast China, and zhen dai in Hainan. All other countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, Sir Lanka, Hong Kong have different names for the sesame balls, but for everyone else, these are just known as sesame seed balls.

You can make your own sesame ball at home. Again, hundreds of recipes are available online (don’t ask me because I would just rather buy and eat direct minus the hassle of cooking and cleaning the scene afterward. ) If you have extra sesame balls, you can save it in the fridge and reheat in a toaster oven for 5-6 minutes.

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