November 28, 2021

Chinese Black Sesame Dessert Soup 黑芝麻糊

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At long last the chill winds of autumn are blowing through Hong Kong, blasting away the warm long lasting humidity of the sometimes seemingly unending Hong Kong summer.  In other words, it's finally getting cold!  

I'm sitting at my writing desk, snuggled contentedly into my soft and very warm and comfy Chinese silk padded jacket 棉襖.  Guarded against the autumn chills, my thoughts turn to warming myself and my family from the inside out.  Hum...  Ah ha, I've got it!  What better way to do that then to whip up some deliciously soul soothing and warming Chinese dessert soups?  Not only tasty but, according to Chinese beliefs, these soups are essential to supporting health and warming the body throughout the cool months.  

And to start with is my personal favorite, the rock star of Chinese dessert soups, the black and  gorgeous Chinese Black Sesame Dessert Soup 黑芝麻糊, a thick and sweetly nutty soup packed with intense aroma of freshly roasted and ground black sesame seed.  Warms the heart and sweetens the day, all in one yummilicious bowl!

tong shui, Chinese, recipe, tong shui, Black Sesame, Dessert Soup, dessert,  黑芝麻糊

The soup itself is actually quite simple.  First thing is to find some black sesame seeds 黑芝麻.  Black sesame seeds are different from the white sesame seeds in that they still have the hulls on, giving black sesame seeds a more intensely sesame-y, slightly bitter taste and an extra crunch.  

I buy mine at the grocery store here in HK or sometimes at the Chinese medicine shops and I'd imagine that any asian grocery store would carry them.

Homemade black sesame soup is going to be better than the stuff you can get in Chinese tong shui dessert shops.  You want to know why?  The secret key to blow your socks off sesame flavor is freshly roasted sesame seeds!  

Low heat (I like to use my trusty cast iron pan for even heat) slowly toasts the seeds to tease out maximum aroma and flavor.  Just stir the seeds constantly for a minute or two until you hear popping sounds and can smell the delicious roasty sesame aroma rising from the seeds.  Don't skip this step, it's not the same if you don't roast 'em!

tong shui, Chinese, recipe, tong shui, Black Sesame, Dessert Soup, dessert,  黑芝麻糊

Once roasted and cooled the sesame seeds are processed into a fine powder.  It smells heavenly already!

tong shui, Chinese, recipe, tong shui, Black Sesame, Dessert Soup, dessert,  黑芝麻糊

Sugar is added and mixed in, giving the mixture a black and white  look.

tong shui, Chinese, recipe, tong shui, Black Sesame, Dessert Soup, dessert,  黑芝麻糊

Finally water is added and mixed in, resulting in a thick sauce.  At this point you could stop and use this deliciously aromatic sweet black sesame sauce for drizzling over ice cream or cake or whatever else you think deserves a hint of rich sesame.

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Rock sugar 冰糖
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Rice flour

Time to gather the two other ingredients you will need for this dessert soup.  The first is rock sugar 冰糖, which is sugar that is crystallized into large and small crystals.  Rock sugar is not as sweet as white granulated sugar and provides a mellow sweetness to the soup.  You'll want to buy the ones that are tinted yellow as those are made from raw cane sugar and retain more flavor than the pure white rock sugars.

The second is rice flour 米粉, which is used to thicken the soup.  Be careful not to use glutinous rice flour by mistake.  These two type flours are sold in similar packaging so it's easy to mistaken one for the other.

Both these items can be found in your local asian grocery store.

tong shui, Chinese, recipe, tong shui, Black Sesame, Dessert Soup, dessert,  黑芝麻糊

Chinese dessert soups are always thickened, some more, some less, so that the mouth feel of the soup has a pleasing velvety texture.  It's the same for the Chinese Black Sesame Dessert Soup, where rice flour is added to cool water, mixed and then heated to provide the base for the soup.  

tong shui, Chinese, recipe, tong shui, Black Sesame, Dessert Soup, dessert,  黑芝麻糊

The rock sugar and black sesame sauce are added last and the whole mixture is stirred until sugar has melted and the soup has reached your desired consistency.  You'll want to use smaller pieces of rock sugar so that it doesn't take forever to melt like it did for me :(  

If you only have large rock sugar lumps just wrap them in a towel and hammer them to size.  Also, if you overshoot your desired soup thickness, no worries, you can just adjust by adding a bit more water.

Simple to make with a huge reward.  This humble Chinese Black Sesame Dessert Soup 黑芝麻糊 punches all the right yummilicious dessert buttons: amazing aroma, intensely pleasing sesame taste, velvety texture, warming to the body and heart.  It's my favorite sweet Chinese dessert soup and always makes me and my family happy when we drink it.  Try and see if you don't feel the same!

tong shui, Chinese, recipe, tong shui, Black Sesame, Dessert Soup, dessert,  黑芝麻糊
Chinese Black Sesame Dessert Soup Recipe 黑芝麻糊
(makes six bowls) Prep time: 5 mins Cook time: 5 mins 



Roast sesame seeds on a thick bottomed pan over low heat for a few minutes, stirring and flipping, until the seeds start to pop and a fragrant sesame aroma rises.  Take off heat and let cool to room temp.

Pour seeds into food processor and pulverize until it becomes a fine powder.  If you don't have a food processor you can do it the traditional way by using a mortar and pestle.  It will take quite a bit longer but some folks swear that the resulting sesame paste is superior.  

Add sugar and give it a whiz or two to mix in.

Add 1/4 cup water and whiz until evenly mixed and a smooth paste is formed.

In a pot, mix rice flour with water until combined.  Add in rock sugar and heat over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and the sugar is melted.  Add in the sesame paste and stir until combined and the color turns black.  Taste and add more sugar if needed.  If the soup has thickened too much for your taste, add a bit of water until the desired consistency reached.

Serve hot in rice bowls with a spoon.  Enjoy a warm and comforting autumn treat!



  1. hi! looks delicious. are there any substitutes for rice flour?

  2. Hi sabrina - You should be able to sub with AP flour. Or you could sub in cornstarch or potato starch. I would go with potato starch, easier to work with. Starch will thicken quicker than rice flour so use much less (2-3 tbsp?) keep your eye on the pot and keep stirring. Important to mix the starch with cool water before adding into the pot, so that it doesn't lump up. Rice flour is best for taste, tho. Hope that helps! ~ellen

  3. I thought I was suppose to put all 5 cups of water with the rice flour. It was not clear how much to put in. Maybe not supposed to use all 5 cups?? It turned into a white liquid with some black flecks in it. :(

  4. Yes, it’s right, should be 5 cups of water. The black sesame paste coloring is really quite dense in color and should be able to color the whole soup black even with that much water. ~ellen