Sesame Balls Recipe (Vietnamese Bánh Cam)

If you’re looking for dessert on the richer side, something deep fried and crispy always delivers. This sesame balls recipe (Vietnamese bánh cam) satifies snack cravings with a crispy golden glutinous rice outer shell, filled with sweet mung beans, and covered in white sesame seeds.

banh-cam-1

My grandmother was a child raising machine. As if raising nine of her own kids wasn’t enough of a challenge, she had her hands in raising almost all of the grand-kids too. Between cleaning up our messes and playing referee to our disputes, it seemed like she never skipped a beat in the kitchen.

In the very rare cases something wasn’t bubbling on the stove, grandma sometimes fed us a pulverized mix of roasted sesame seeds and salt (muối mè) over rice. Sounds like peasant food, right? Tasty peasant food. This is when I probably had my first taste of sesame seeds.

Does anyone really know where sesame seeds come from (Any Mitch Hedberg fans?)? These crunchy little teardrop-shaped seeds cover the snack we’re going to be making today–bánh cam (sesame balls).

The name bánh cam literally means “orange cake” because these balls simply resemble oranges, not because there are any actual oranges in it.

What does it taste like?

banh-cam-2

There’s wonderful harmony in bánh cam. The outer shell is a warm golden brown color covered in white sesame seeds. The exterior has a satisfying crispiness to it from frying. On the other side of that surface is a lightly chewy or springy glutinous rice dough and a sweet ball of mung bean. Fans of bánh cam can get pretty picky about this balance between the crisp and chew.

Origins in Vietnam

banh-cam-3

Although they look very similar, there are differences between bánh cam from the South and bánh ran from the North. Both styles can be found throughout the country though. My parents recount the differences in these fried desserts back home:

North Vietnam – Bánh Rán

Northerners call it bánh ran, or “fried cake”. These are made with a Jasmine flower essence for a nice aroma. A sugary drizzle on these fried goodies can be found on them depending on the vendor.

Another difference in the north is that when they are covered in sugar, the dough is made only with sweet rice flour and no rice flour, sesame seeds, or potatoes.

South Vietnam – Bánh Cam

In this post, I make it in the Southern style. There is no essence of flower added to this. The most popular flavor added to the mung bean filling is with drops of vanilla extract.

Only in the South will you find freshly shredded coconut in the filling too, but that will vary by vendor. If you add coconut to your recipe, do yourself a favor and use only freshly grated coconut!

Shaped By Necessity

In many cases, money determines how things pan out.  We add potatoes to prevent bánh cam from exploding in the fryer. Since potatoes were scarce (expensive) in Vietnam so sweet potatoes were used instead. This increased the sweetness allowing the cook to save money by cutting back on sugar too.

For the mung bean filling, my parents swear no cooks or snackers cared for some detail such as if the ball of mung bean shakes inside or not. There’s more air inside when you make the filling smaller and it’s highly likely cooks did that to stretch their daily supply.

Preparing the mung beans

mung beans soaking in glass container

Soak the dried mung beans. There’s two ways to hydrate them. The faster way: add hot water to soak them on the kitchen counter, drain then replace the hot water twice over the course of two hours.

The slower and easier way: add hot water to the beans, let it cool, the transfer to the fridge overnight.

Then when hydrated, drain and cook. Steaming is the simplest way to cook them because you just let it sit on medium heat, and don’t have to worry about stirring, or how much water you’ve added.

You can cook this on the stove, or in a rice cooker, just as you’d cook rice but it can be more finnicky to do it right, and you may lose a lot of beans sticking to the pot.

They’re done when no longer crunchy, and easily mash between your fingers, about 30 minutes.

How To Serve

These were usually sold by vendors as a snack. Locals rarely could afford more than one of these. They were maybe the size of a small orange–large enough to satisfy a dessert craving.

It’s fun to flatten bánh cam into a disk before taking a bite, but I also like making them into little bite-sized poppers too. These are excellent served with coffee or tea.

Cook’s Notes

It took a lot of recipe tinkering with mom to get to this recipe. The adjustments were made to get a better crisp in the shell, and to develop a deeper brown color. The amounts of sugar are made so it’s not too sweet.

Filling ingredients – Adjusting sugar for the filling is easy, but it may change the texture and color if you adjust too much for the outer dough. I tried the mung bean filling with vanilla too, but prefer it without.

Shell ingredients – I have also tried using boiled potato instead of flakes, and it didn’t turn out as well. It probably has to do with getting the water levels right, but there was much better success for me with potato flakes. There are some legit local vendors who make it with boiled potatoes and their bánh cam is excellent.

Prepping ahead & storage – Before rolling and frying, the dough keeps in the fridge for a few days just fine. If you don’t eat too many of these at a time, it’s better to fry up fresh batches. After you fry these sesame balls, they do keep okay for a day or two. To reheat them, pop ’em in a toaster oven, or re-fry them in oil.

banh-cam-4

What are sesame balls made of?

Vietnamese bánh cam is a mix of a glutinous rice flour, regular rice flour, and a wheat flour crispy outer layer with a soft and sweet mochi-like mung bean center.

What do sesame balls taste like?

Sesame balls have a crispy and roasted sesame exterior and it gives you a sweet mung bean flavor when you bite down.

Chinese Sesame Balls?

The Chinese version of these sesame balls look very similar. I see these most of the time on dim sum carts. The filling is usually a red bean paste, black bean paste, taro, or lotus seed. The recipes I see there typically use more water in the filling so it’s more of a paste.

When you bite into the sesame ball you’ll usually find it more smashed and stuck to the wall of the outer shell compared to the consistency we go for in this recipe. The drier target of this recipe usually has the filling maintain it’s shape and sometimes you can hear it shaking around inside.

Vietnamese Sesame Balls Pinterest Image

Sesame Balls Recipe (Vietnamese Bánh Cam)

This sesame balls recipe (Vietnamese bánh cam) satifies snack cravings with a crispy golden glutinous rice outer shell, filled with sweet mung beans, and covered in white sesame seeds.
4.84 from 12 votes
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Author: Hungry Huy
Prep: 3 hrs
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 3 hrs 40 mins
Servings: 8
Calories / serving: 186kcal

Ingredients

Outer Shell (Vỏ)

  • 4 oz glutinous rice flour
  • 0.75 oz rice flour
  • 0.75 oz all-purpose wheat flour
  • 5 tbsp potato flakes from boxed mashed potatoes works too!
  • 1.6 oz sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water plus ~8 tsp later to reach desired consistency
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder

Filling (Nhân)

  • 4 oz dried mung beans
  • 0.75 oz sugar (roughly 4 tsp)
  • 1/4 tsp salt optional
  • A dash of vanilla extract optional

Cooking Oil

  • A neutral cooking oil for frying

Instructions

Filling prep option 1 (Overnight, less effort)

  • Rinse the mung beans under running water and drain, just like how you'd wash rice.
  • Soak the mung beans option 1. Add enough hot water to go 1/2" beyond the level of mung beans, let it cool and transfer to the fridge overnight.
  • Soak the mung beans option 2. Add enough hot water to go 1/2" beyond the level of mung beans, then drain when its no longer hot and replace with hot water twice over the course of two hours.
  • Cook the mung beans. Using a steamer on medium heat is the easiest way to reach perfect doneness. You can also make it in a rice cooker with slightly more water than you would use to make rice, but you will lose some sticking to the pot. The beans are done when no longer crunchy, have softened and are ready to mash.
  • Mash after it's cooked and add water to desired consistency. The goal is to have a paste similar to thick, slightly dry mashed potatoes.

Outer Shell (Vỏ)

  • Mix 1/2 of the water in a big bowl. Add sugar, salt and mix to dissolve.
  • Add remaining ingredients and mix (you can use a food processor if you want).
  • The dough should be slightly dry and have a play-dough consistency. Rest 2-8 hours. It will be slightly rise and hydrate after resting, making it easier to work with.

Forming The Bánh Cam

  • Flatten out a disk of the dough and add a ball of mung bean filling. The dough to filling ratio is up to you! I like about 1" in diameter, but you can make them bigger. Keep in mind they will slightly expand during cooking.
  • Try not to leave any air pockets inside, since the dough will already be expanding and adding air to the center. Close off the ball so there aren't any cracks.
  • Slightly roll in your hands to make a ball shape and then roll in a bowl of sesame seeds to coat thoroughly. Set aside for frying.

Frying

  • Deep fry the bánh cam at around 285F. It should take about 11 minutes per batch. You may need to stir them a bit for an even fry.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Serving: 0g | Calories: 186kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 322mg | Potassium: 289mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 16IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 73mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: banh cam, deep fried, sesame balls
I'd love to see what you cook up!Mention @HungryHuy or tag #hungryhuy to notify me

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44 thoughts on “Sesame Balls Recipe (Vietnamese Bánh Cam)

  1. Thuy says:

    5 stars
    When I was little we used to eat balled up rice dip in muoi me, simple but delish! You just gotta enjoy the little things in life. The sizing of these Banh Ran is so perfect yet dangerous, I bet I can eat a dozen and not even know it!

    1. Huy says:

      Sounds like a fun way to snack! But fun-sized snacks means you get to eat more of them, right?

  2. Julia | JuliasAlbum.com says:

    What an interesting dessert! I’ve never seen those before. I’d surely like to have a bite.

    1. Huy says:

      Yes! They’re fairly common Vietnamese desserts, and vary a lot from store to store.

  3. nhbilly says:

    Beautiful pictures and nice recipes.

    1. Huy says:

      Thank you!

  4. Tina Nguyen says:

    5 stars
    Thank anh Huy for your recipe of Banh Cam, that’s what I want to cook for my Mum and Daddy to try my cooking. Have a good day anh Huy, cheers 🙂

    1. Huy says:

      You are welcome Tina, hope it helps!

  5. Julia says:

    I lived in Malaysia as a teen and young adult and was lucky enough to travel extensively throughout SE Asia, India, Korea,mand Japan. I live in Texas now and miss so many of my favourite foods but there is a small restaurant a stone’s throw from my house run by a young couple – she’s Vietnamese and he’s Chinese Malay and their food is everything I remember. Last night I had tofu with green beans and tomatoes in black bean sauce, which was perfection, followed by my customary order of six sesame balls. I always say I’m going to share them, or save some for the next day, but that never happens. They are in the southern style, simple, filled with red bean paste and the balance of crisp to chewy is magical perfection. They’re always fresh and warm, made after they’re ordered and simply irresistanle.

    1. Huy says:

      Julia, you’re lucky to have traveled so much I would love the opportunity! It is nice to be able to get Vietnamese food whenever the craving hits isn’t it? 🙂

  6. JOJO says:

    HI!!!!! Are you a Vietnamese or a Filipino?

    1. Huy says:

      Jojo! I’m American born, Vietnamese-American 🙂

  7. bounmii says:

    4 stars
    I just cooked some and they exploded in the deep fryer! The recipe is the same as I have used before and there have been no problems before. I’m unsure if what caused this. Freaked me out!

    1. Jenni says:

      Hello, Bounmii. My husband loves to deep fry and sometimes exploding happens. Usually it’s because there was water mixed in with the fry oil, or you had it turned up too high

  8. LoiBeth says:

    Love your recipes, the presentation, and your writing! Great job!

    Thank you for sharing; I want to learn to cook some great Vietnamese food from you.

    What WordPress theme are you using? Or did you build your own? Just curious!

    LoiBeth

  9. Sarah Leung says:

    Love, love, love … must learn to make it. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

    1. Huy says:

      Thank You Sarah!

  10. Golden says:

    Thank you so much for the beautiful photographs and narratives! I love the regional nuances. Banh cam is one of my favorite desserts, and very few places make it right. I like a thin, crispy shell that’s light on the filling. Where do you buy your potato flakes? Is it the same thing as potato starch?

    1. Huy says:

      Golden, that’s very nice of you–thank you for reading and taking the time to comment! Banh cam is excellent. The last two places I’ve had it actually were not good at all… pretty hit or miss!

      But the potato flakes, you can get those at most grocery stores. They’re flakes for instant mashed potatoes. It kinda looks like fish food I suppose. Flakey, quite different from potato starch. Hope that helps!

  11. Mario says:

    5 stars
    Thank you very much for sharing all these wonderful and tasty recipes.

    We have tried several recipes of Banh cam before but never got the right mix and right round shape. We have now tried yours and they are simply perfect. Absolutely love these…

    Thanks again.

    1. Huy says:

      Mario that is awesome! These fellas can be finnicky. It seems almost everyone has a slightly different recipe, but I’m glad these worked out so well for you. Thank you for sharing!

  12. James Eaton says:

    5 stars
    Hello Huy! Very nice to be here. I’m an old English guy and my Malaysian wife does a lot of home cooking here for both of us, in the UK. She often makes Mung bean desserts with either Tapioca or, as tonight, shredded coconut, This evening, she asked me to find a Mung bean cake recipe and of all the recipes out there yours is the best presented. When she saw your photo of those little sesame coated balls she knew instantly this was the recipe she was looking for.

    Many thanks for your perfect presentation and great pictures. I look forward to these Mung Bean treats as soon as we have gathered all the ingredients- looks like a hunter /gatherer trip to town soon!

    Cheers, Jim and Ramlah Eaton

    1. Huy says:

      James and Ramlah, I’m glad you found the post useful! Yeah there are lots of options for mung bean sweets, they’re fun to mess with. This one gets an extra boost because you get to indulge in friiiied hehe. Thanks for sharing and have a fun hunter-gatherer trip!

  13. Isabella says:

    Hi Huy,

    Thank you for sharing your great recipes. I have a question to ask on Banh Cam. For the mung bean filling, do you mean 4 oz uncooked mung bean or 4 oz cooked/steamed mung bean? I just want to be sure before making these banh cam. Please reply. Thank you.

  14. Julie Chen says:

    I need simple receipes for kids school lunch. Teenager

  15. Christi Z says:

    5 stars
    Huy, I too am an American-born Vietnamese American. I’ve wanted to learn so many of these dishes for as long as I can remember… Many of the recipes I’ve found elsewhere aren’t even close. I am thrilled to have found your site, as I’ll be visiting frequently and introducing my Salvadorean husband to more and more of our traditional cuisine. I’m bookmarking your site now just so I don’t lose it!

    1. Huy says:

      Christi I’m glad you found my recipes useful! There are lots of variations folks do on this based on region and personal preference. Somehow it ain’t right unless it’s like mom’s. Good luck on cooking adventure, and let me know how they turn out 🙂

  16. Isabella says:

    Hi Huy,
    Is all-purpose wheat flour same as American grocery store all-purpose flour (bột mì)? Please reply. Thank you.

    1. Huy says:

      Yep, that’s the one!

  17. Thuy says:

    Hi Huy,

    Which type of baking powder should I use? the type that is sold in Asian shops (Alaska?) or in the Western shops?

  18. LIEN NGUYEN says:

    5 stars
    Hi Huy, just wanted to say I love all of your recipes! I finally able to learn how to make Vietnamese food without hounding my moms for recipes. For some reasons, Asian moms are so stingy with sharing recipes lol. May I ask, what can I replace the wheat flour with. My son cannot have gluten. Thank you so much! Have a wonderful day!

  19. Tara Neal says:

    5 stars
    Hooray! These turned out great. I used half a mashed potato (50grams?) instead of flakes and nothing exploded, so I think that’s a win. They were delicious. I always wanted to learn to make these. My only question is, can you prepare a large amount and store them somehow? Maybe chill or freeze the un-fried balls? Or par-fried? They are so good fresh and warm, but I shouldn’t eat as many as I would want!

  20. ht says:

    Can I get this recipe in cups, tbsp, tsp instead of oz?

  21. Suz says:

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe! We had these at a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant last night, but the filling was made from some type of Asian red bean. Would you happen to know what type of bean this might be? I’d really like to try to make them, as the flavor was amazing and not too sweet.

  22. Wyn Faulkner says:

    Hi Huy
    I would like to try your recipe, but I don’t know what potato flakes are (I don’t think they have them here in Germany). Is there an alternative that you’ve tried which works? And if so, could you please share. Thanks heaps!

  23. Richard says:

    4 stars
    I am slighly confused on the filling, did you mean steam the beans, and then mash and add the other ingredients?

  24. Tiffany says:

    I just stumbled onto your website and this is my first posting, ever! My kids are gluten-free, so what would you recommend as a gluten-free substitute for the wheat flour in this recipe? Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

  25. Dieu-Hanh says:

    5 stars
    How long we can freeze it? How can i keep it crisp for a long time and fresh?
    Thank you

  26. Ashley says:

    I love these! This recipe looks so good, I may have tp try to make them myself. I am fortunate to live in an area of Boston that has several Vietnamese food shops. The one next to my laundromat makes these …. with and without an added sugar syrup coating… so delicious with the hard sugar coating. I like to treat myself once in a while, when waiting for my laundry. So yummy.

    1. Huy says:

      Hey Ashley–I was able to visit Boston recently and it was super fun. Didn’t try any Viet food out there 🙂 but glad you have access to it nearby!

  27. Minnie says:

    Hi Huy! I’m curious what brand of potato flakes would you recommend? Lol but more importantly what are potato flakes? Do you mean like the instant mashed potato flakes?

    1. Hungry Huy says:

      Hey Minnie, any brand! If you can’t find just a bag of this by itself, yeah the boxed instant mashed potato flakes will do!

  28. Mary says:

    Hi Huy! This recipe takes me back to my childhood. We’d always stop by the Vietnamese grocer on Sunday’s after church and could always talk Dad into getting us each one of these for a snack. Mmmm. Question, is it possible to roll the balls with filling outside and sesame seeds outside and then freezing until ready to fry?

    1. Hungry Huy says:

      Sounds like Dad didn’t need much convincing since he probably wanted some too :). I haven’t tried pre-freezing these actually, not sure how that would turn out!

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