Jin dui is a favorite from the dim sum cart and especially during the Chinese New Year holiday, but it can be found year round at many places.

Photo By Jason Chin

Where to find jin dui on Oahu

Everyone’s favorite crisp, chewy, sweet sesame balls aren’t just in Chinatown
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Jin dui, jian dui, ma tuan or sesame balls – whatever you call them, they're beloved not only in China but around the world. Made from mochi rice and filled with coconut, red bean, sesame paste or char siu, they puff up when fried, resulting in a thin, crispy, chewy ball of golden brown deliciousness.

Lee's Bakery makes a fresh batch every morning.

Jin dui starts as a disc of dough wrapped around a pat of filling. It's rolled in sesame seeds before heading into a wok of hot oil. As the dough fries, it's gently pressed and rolled around the wok until it puffs up to a ball. Too long in the oil and the jin dui ends up soggy and greasy. If they're not pressed enough, they stay flat and dense; press too much and they deflate. Having tried my hand at this fickle pastry, I've resigned myself to leaving it to the professionals.

My personal favorite is at Sing Cheong Yuan Bakery on Maunakea Street where I've been going since I was little. It's the standard by which I judge all jin dui.

Best eaten fresh out of the fryer, jin dui are commonly found in dim sum restaurants, Chinese bakeries and manapua shops. You'll also see them at events like this weekend's Night in Chinatown. Like malassadas at Punahou Carnival and andagi at Okinawan Festival, they're totally worth standing in line for.

Giant jin dui from Golden Palace Seafood Restaurant
The hollow giant jin dui from Golden Palace in Chinatown is a Chinese New Year special. (Photo by Kelli Shiroma)

Finding jin dui the rest of the year isn't as hard as you might think. The key is getting them while they're still hot and crispy. Wherever you go, it's best to call ahead and ask because jin dui often sell out.

Chun Wah Kam, $1.75 each

Only made at the Aiea location and only in the morning. Call ahead because they don't make them every day.

98-040 Kamehameha Hwy.
Aiea
485-1107

Golden Palace Seafood Restaurant, $15 for giant jin dui

The oversized jin dui is available starting today and through the Lunar New Year weekend.

111 N King St
Chinatown
521-8268

Lee's Bakery, $1.25

Only made in the morning.

125 N. King St.
Chinatown
521-6261

New Mui Kwai Chop Suey I, $1.95

Only made once a day.

45-1052 Kamehameha Hwy.
Kaneohe
247-3230

Nice Day Chinese Restaurant, $3.75 for three pieces

Available throughout dim sum service times and at the takout window.

1425 Liliha St.
Liliha
524-1628

Sing Cheong Yuan Bakery, $1.35

Fried throughout the day and replenished as supply goes down. They have a booth at Night in Chinatown.

1027 Maunakea St.
Chinatown
531-6688

U-Choice In, $1.45 each

Only made in the morning.

801 Kaheka St.
Outside of Don Quixote
941-3393