Somewhere South with Chef Vivian Howard

Jeen Duy

Dessert Dumplings

This recipe is from Cathy Mai, who owns Mai Little China in Greenwood, Miss., along with her chef husband Matthew Mai. This is how her mother, Lillian Kwong, taught her how to make these dessert dumplings.


  • ½ pound glutinous rice flour
  • ⅓ pound tapioca flour
  • 1 pound of Chinese brown sugar, minus 1 slab (try Peony Mark brand or similar)
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts 
  • 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Cooking oil (any oil is fine) 
  • ½ cup to 1 cup raw sesame seeds


Step 1: Mix rice and tapioca flours in a large bowl, and reserve ½ cup separately. 

Melt brown sugar in water. Mix sugar water with the flours until a big ball of dough forms. Place dough on a floured surface and knead in the reserved ½ cup flour.

Step 2: Crush peanuts with a jar or rolling pin. (Mom always used a glass jar.) Mix peanuts, coconut, sesame seeds and granulated sugar together in a bowl. Set aside.

Step 3: After kneading the dough, pinch off a piece about an inch round. Roll it into a ball and press it into a small bowl of raw sesame seeds (only on one side). Continue to flatten a bit with your hands until it is ⅛- to ¼-inch thick.

Place about ½ teaspoon filling in the center of the dough circle. Fold in half to make a crescent shape. Pinch edges to seal. Make as many dumplings as you have filling. 

Step 4: If you don’t have a deep fryer, heat your preferred cooking oil in a pan deep enough to cover the dumplings. As you place the dumplings into the oil, they will sink. Once they start floating,  flip often so they can puff up. Fry until golden brown. 

Yield: about 36 dumplings