Off the Beaten Plate: Sesame balls at Red Pepper Chinese Restaurant

Sesame balls at Red Pepper Chinese Restaurant, 821 Iowa St.

Sesame balls at Red Pepper Chinese Restaurant, 821 Iowa St. by Joanna Hlavacek

These sweet little morsels are popular in China, where they’re traditionally eaten on birthdays or New Year’s celebrations.

It didn’t take a special occasion for Red Pepper’s sesame balls to lure us over to the west Lawrence restaurant — just an empty stomach and an undying love for anything sweet.

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The jin deui, it turns out, aren’t overly sweet, which made them a nice, mild follow-up to our heaping — and I mean heaping — plate of Red Pepper’s orange chicken. (This place does not play around with its portion sizes.)

Made with gelatinous flour, the sesame balls are chewy and crisp all at once. They’re filled with sweetened bean paste and rolled in a generous coating of sesame seeds.

Apparently, the Chinese believe eating sesame balls expands one’s good fortune, a nod to how the dough expands as it fries. I’d say it’s a bit too early to tell, but if anything amazing happens to me — like, say, AMC suddenly starts producing more episodes of “Mad Men” or my childhood Beanie Baby collection shooting up in value — you’ll be the first to know.

— Off The Beaten Plate highlights some of the more exotic, oddly named or inventively concocted dishes from local menus. Know of an offbeat item we should check out? Email reporter Joanna Hlavacek at Follow her at


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