With a name like this, how can anyone not like them?
Smiling doughnuts are also commonly known as smiling mouth cookies, happy mouth cookie balls, deep-fried sesame cookie balls or from it’s direct Cantonese translation, 笑口枣 means smiling mouth dates.
These little gems are usually served during Chinese New Year celebrations because the natural cracks on the balls resemble a smile and hence brings happiness to the home.
You must not confuse these with the yum-cha favourite: glutinous sesame seed balls (jin deui or 麻团) which are larger but hollow (sometimes filled with lotus paste, black bean paste or red bean paste) and have a soft chewy texture.
Smiling doughnuts are easy to make which is why I decided to give them a go when my little brother’s school was holding an international food fair.

homemade smiling doughnuts (笑口枣) also known as happy mouth cookie balls, deep-fried sesame cookie balls or smiling mouth dates
Step by step guide to homemade smiling doughnuts

This recipe makes about 60 tiny balls (and by tiny, I mean the size of a golf ball or smaller). Special thanks to my Mum for sharing 🙂
2 cups self raising flour
2 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
500 grams of sesame seeds
1. Pre-heat enough oil for deep-frying.
2. Combine all dry ingredients (except for sesame seeds) then add remaining wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.
2. When the dough is smooth and sticky, using a spoon, scoop out tiny balls and roll it around your palms.
3. Drop the ball into a bowl of sesame seeds and coat it well. Repeat the process until you have enough balls to fill a frying pan.
4. Deep-fry the balls a handful at a time. You should notice cracks appearing around the balls.
5. Drain the deep-fried balls on a baking rack then transfer onto paper towels.

boxes of Smiling Doughnuts (笑口枣) also known as happy mouth cookie balls, deep-fried sesame cookie balls or smiling mouth dates
Boxes of smiling doughnuts, ready for a school international food fair

These doughnut balls are slightly sweet, crunchy and like anything golden and deep-fried… They’re extremely addictive. Om nom nom nom…

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Jennifer is the founder of I Ate My Way Through. Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. These days, you'll most likely find Jen blogging about slow & intentional living On The Slow Lane and sharing what she knows now about mindful parenting and play-based learning at Mama's Got This.


  1. Hey Betty, these definitely taste better fresh! Day-old ones can be toasted in the oven for the same crunch.
    Hey Marcel, thanks for the tip! But scoring them distorts the natural smile and turns it into an open mouth? LOL 😉

  2. My friend gave me one once (the packaged ones from the shop) and I fell in love with these. I’ll definitely make these soon- it looks simple enough….
    How long do they keep for?

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  4. […] Small round cookie balls covered in sesame. When deep-fried, they naturally crack open and greet you with big happy smiles! These smiles bring happiness to the home, and so are essential during Lunar New Year celebrations. They’re also EXTREMELY easy to make in 5 simple steps, so if you’re ready for a house of smiles, try making them here. […]


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