They are very different to any European dessert; nestled in the syrup, they are usually served hot. Ginger is the most common flavouring of the syrup that I've come across, but sometimes pandan leaves are used too. The glutinous rice flour that the balls are made from create a gluey, slightly bouncy texture to give way to the smooth, nutty sesame paste within. It's deceptively rich.
As I set about making these, I wished desperately for a food processor. The toasted sesame seeds are ground to a fine powder which was hard work and time consuming in a pestle and mortar. Next, the dough with which to make the balls was frustratingly fragile - it split, stuck and cracked all over the place. In short, these were a right ball-ache to make. I'm buying them frozen from the Chinese supermarket from now on. They still tasted great though, and if you have the patience, give it a try.
Black Sesame Tong Yuen
Makes 16 - 18 dumplings
230gr glutinous rice flour
180ml boiling water
50gr black sesame seeds
40gr lard (yes, lard. It makes the filling silky smooth. If you're too scared, use butter)
Per serving -
3 slices of ginger
A sprinkling of dried crysanthemum flowers
1.5 tbsp white sugar (to taste)
Toast the black sesame seeds in a pan until fragrant. Leave to cool and grind to a fine powder. Melt the lard or the butter in a pan and then add the sugar until it's melted. Add the black sesame powder and mix to form a smooth paste. Add more butter / lard if it's looking a bit dry. Put it in a bowl and leave to cool and place in the fridge.
Set the water on to simmer with the ginger and sugar - simmer for at least 15 minutes.
Mix the water with the flour bit by bit until it forms a smooth dough and leave to cool. Make into 16 balls and flour your work surface. Flatten the balls out and place a little black sesame mixture in the middle, folding it up so that it's sealed. Roll around your palm VERY carefully (this was the point at which my first one completely fell apart) and place on a floured plate. To cook, place the dumplings in a separate pot of boiling water. Once they float to the surface, they are cooked. To serve, place in a bowl and pour the sweet ginger broth over the dumplings and garnish with some dried crysanthemum.