Rice ball is a popular afternoon snack for Vietnamese people. There are many variations, including sweet rice balls coated with sesame, caramel, sugar and savoury balls filled with minced pork, onion, carrot, glass noodles, wood ear. This type of street food is served all year long on various streets and markets in Vietnam. But the best time to enjoy its deliciousness, in my opinion, is in a winter afternoon when you’re just out of school or work, absolutely hungry and longing for something warm and delicious to calm your stomach
This recipe introduces two variations of sweet rice balls, which are famous for their names as “dancing” balls. The dough is neither too thick nor too thin and firm enough to hold the filling while being soft, chewy and a little crunchy outside to satisfy your taste at first bite. The filling is made of mung beans, which have been prepared in the same way as mooncake fillings, thus is tender and creates the melt-in-the-mouth sensation.
SESAME AND CARAMEL-COATED RICE BALLS
- 100 gram glutinous (sticky) rice flour
- 15 gram rice flour
- 30 – 35 gram sweet potato (boiled and mashed)
- 25 gram sugar
- 50 – 100 ml warm water (40 – 50 C)
- 70 gram mung beans/ yellow beans
- 20 – 25 gram sugar to taste
- 30 gram coconut oil (or normal cooking oil)
- 30 – 40 gram shredded coconut (optional)
C. Other ingredients
- 300 ml oil (for frying)
- 50 gram sesame seeds (for 20 rice balls)
- 10 ginger slices
- 80 gram brown sugar or palm sugar (for 20 rice balls – In the video I only used half of the ingredient – 40 gram sugar to make 10 balls)
1. If you use rice flour which is made by grinding rice with water (the traditional Vietnamese way of making rice flour), much less amount of water should be used since the flour has already contained water.
2. Sweet potato can be substituted by potato or potato starch; however, sweet potato will bring the best flavour to the rice balls.
A detailed recipe with all the specific notes is available on my YouTube Channel (Savoury Days Kitchen) in both English and Vietnamese (select your preferred language by clicking CC > Setting > Language). You guys can check it out at this link or the video right below.
* Printable recipe
– Mix glutinous rice flour, rice flour, sugar and mashed sweet potato in a bowl. Make a hole at the centre of the mixture.
– Add about 50 ml warm water and knead gently until the mixture is well incorporated into a dough ball.
– If the dough is still dry, water should be gradually added, 10 ml each time. Knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic, neither too wet nor too dry.
* Note: The amount of water used depends on the type of flour. The dough should be soft, elastic and easy to shape. If it’s too dry, the balls may crack or burst when being fried.
– Cover the bowl with cling film and let the dough rest for 30 to 60 minutes.
– Rinse mung beans and add to a pan. Add boiling water to the pan so that the water is 3 -5 times as much as the beans. Bring the pan to a boil on high heat and skim off the foam on top. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are soft and tender. Add more hot water if it turns dry in the pan.
– Puree the soft beans and pour into a pan. Add sugar and coconut oil or cooking oil (coconut oil is better for health and tastier).
– Stir the filling on medium heat until the filling gets drier. Add shredded coconut and stir until the filling thickens and is no longer runny. Remove the pan from heat (It’s not necessary to carefully stir the filling on low heat like making the filling for mooncake).
– Divide the fillings into 20 portions of 10 – 12 gram each when it’s still warm. Feel free to divide into bigger portions for bigger rice balls.
3. Wrap the filling
– Divide the dough into 20 portions of 12 – 14 gram each.
– Shape each piece of dough into a ball, flatten it and put a filling ball at the centre and wrap it carefully. Please see the video for visual instructions. The dough should closely enclose the filling. If there is air in between, the balls will burst when being fried.
– Repeat the wrapping for the rest of dough and filling.
– For sesame balls, dip your fingers into water and touch to make the balls a little wet. Then roll them onto the sesame seeds. Water helps the sesame seeds easily stick to the dough. Gently press to stick the sesame seeds onto the balls and prevent them from falling out when the balls are fried.
Skip this step if you want to make caramel-coated balls.
– Pour frying oil into a pan so that the oil level is 0.5 cm higher than the rice balls. Since the rice balls are quite small, I use a small pan and fry them in several batches to avoid using too much oil.
– Heat the pain on medium heat until the oil is about 150 °C (300 °F). If cooking thermometer is not available, another way to check is using a dry chopstick to dip into the oil. The oil is hot enough when there are tiny bubbles coming up where you place the chopstick. If the oil is too hot, the rice balls easily burst. If the oil is not hot enough, the rice balls may get firm and hard.
– Drop the rice balls into the pan. Wait for 1 – 3 minutes until their surfaces are quite set, then use chopsticks to gently stir to keep them from sticking to each other and to the bottom. Fry the rice balls on medium heat until they puff and float to the surface. Note: Don’t fry too many rice balls in one time to give space for them to puff and keep them from sticking to each other.
– Set the heat a bit higher and keep stirring constantly so that the rice balls are almost always covered by oil (If there is one part not covered by oil, it is likely to crack and burst). Another way is using a spoon to press the rice balls deep into the oil. When the rice balls turn yellow, take them out onto cooking oil-absorption paper.
For mini rice balls, given that the oil is hot enough, they will puff and float to the top after about 8
– 10 minutes and it takes them 4 – 6 minutes more to turn yellow.
If you prefer the balls to be crunchy, or you prefer to serve them later, you can fry them until they float to the surface and become yellowish, then remove them from the pan. Fry them on high heat for 2 – 3 minutes until they turn yellow before serving.
The rice balls should puff to be 2 – 3 times bigger in size. The dough is crispy outside (with very nice sound when being chewed) and soft inside. When you shake the rice balls, the filling can roll inside (that’s why the name is “dancing” rice balls).
- The dough is not puffy because the dough is too dry/lacks of water or the frying oil is too hot.
- The dough is firm and hard because the balls are fried on low temperature for too long.
- The dough easily cracks, breaks or bursts because there’s air between the filling and the dough or there’s part of the ball not covered by oil when being fried.
5. Rice balls with caramel coating
– Fry the balls (without sesame seeds) until they turn yellow.
– Add ginger and 100 – 120 ml water to a pan. Heat the pan until only 1/3 the amount of water remain, then remove the ginger (this is to add ginger flavour to the caramel coating).
– Add sugar to the pan and dissolve. Simmer until the sauce turns quite thick. Add the rice balls and stir well until they are all coated by yellow and delicious layer of caramel.
- Recipe by: Linh Trang
- Written by: Xuan Tran