simsim balls on a white plate


Simsim balls are snacks sold on the street and in supermarkets in Uganda. It is not uncommon to find a person from the northern part of the country and every corner of every street in Kampala selling simsim balls. These are balls made out of several simsim seeds sticking onto each other. I have always wondered how simsim balls are made over the years of eating them. So I decided to learn and teach you also. So in this write up we shall learn how to make Ugandan simsim balls at home.

What is simsim?

Simsim as we call it in Uganda is due to the Arab influence over East Africa in past trade times. The right English name for simsim is, therefore, Sesame, or Sesamumindicum. The Simsim plant is a flowering plant that grows in tropical weather zones. It is the oldest oilseed crop known to man. The sesame plant requires little farming support and thrives in drought-like conditions where many other crops fail to grow, growing well in high heat with full sun. for this reason, it is commonly grown in the northern parts of Uganda in semi-arid climatic conditions.

Simsim is cultivated for its seeds specifically, which are edible and used as a condiment and ingredient in several cuisines. Sesame seeds grow in seed pods, which burst open when they fully ripen. They are removed from their pods through a process known as hulling. Sesame seeds are small but they have a very high oil content and a nutty flavour when toasted.

How to Cook With ugandan Simsim Seeds

There are a variety of ways one can cook with simsim seeds other than making simsim balls. Here are some suggestions on how to cook with simsim seeds:

  • Sprinkle simsim seeds onto your stir-fries, salads, cold noodles  or any other food before serving for added texture.
  • Add simsim seeds to your baking recipes; you can sprinkle them onbread, muffins, or cookies batter before baking for rich, nutty flavor.
  • Grind simsim seeds into a fine simsim paste and add it to food and sauces  like pasted Ugandan matooke
  • They can be mixed in  yogurt or smoothies for a boost of fiber

Health Benefits of eating Simsim seeds.

Simsim seeds are packed with a variety of health benefits that are good for the body and should therefore not be ignored.

  1. Vitamins and minerals. These seeds are a good source of vitamins B and E, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
  2. Fiber. Simsim seeds have fiber, which supports your digestive health and it may reduce your risk of heart disease.
  3. Healthy fats. The small simsim seeds are high in quality protein and healthy fats. These are vital for giving your body energy.
  4. Anti-inflammatories. Simsim seeds contain copper, which acts as an anti-inflammatory and can help reduce swelling and relieve pain.

Ingredients for making Ugandan simsim balls at Home

350g of simsim seeds

200g of sugar

2 pinches of salt

4 tbsp of water

Step by step process of making Ugandan Simsim balls at home

getting the seeds ready

Sort and clean the seeds to remove stones, sticks and any other unwanted debris.

Dry the seeds under the sun. This will help to raise their temperature a little bit for an easy grinding process.

Roast the simsim seeds on fire for a few minutes until they turn slightly brown. Ensure not to burn the seeds instead. 

Melting the Sugar

Pour the sugar into a thick based Pan. The best sugar for use is regular white sugar. Your best ratio is two parts of sugar to one part of water. add the water and mix.

Place the mixture over a low heat stove. This will ensure that your sugar does not burn. Continuously stir your sugar with a wooden spoon to prevent it from sticking. Break up any lumps and wipe the sides of your saucepan of any stuck sugar.

Making the simsim balls

Once the sugar reaches boiling point it will turn into syrup. Add your simsim seeds to the melted sugar and let them bind well.

After a minute or two, remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool down slightly.

Then grease your hands and start making round balls of about 1-inch diameter or bigger according to your preference.

Place the round simsim balls into an airtight container and store your simsim balls.

Serve with tea or consume it as a snack.

Frequently Asked Questions about Making Simsim Balls

Should I wash the simsim before making the simsim balls?

You may decide to wash your simsim or not to wash it. this is dependent on how clean your simsim seeds are. If you are not aware about the origin of the simsim and how it was stored, it is advisable to wash your simsim seeds at the start.  Wash your seeds 2 to 3 times until the water is clear.

How do you make simsim balls round?

Simsim balls are made round using the palms of your hands.  Get the warm simsim and sugar syrup mixture and make round balls using the palm of your hands. 

Can you eat simsim seeds raw?

Yes, simsim seeds can be eaten raw. It is believed that eating simsim seeds raw is much more beneficial in acquiring all the major nutrients stored in the simsim. But if you cannot handle the raw taste it is better to opt for soaked or roasted seeds.

How is simsim roasted?

Simsim is roasted in a deep heavy-based saucepan on low heat. Use a wooden mixing spoon to turn the simsim around frequently as it roasts. When the simsim is slightly light brown then it is roasted.  Do not wait for it to turn dark brown as the chances of it burning are quite high at this stage. Turn off the heat and let it cool before serving it.

Can one eat simsim on a daily basis?

Yes, one can eat simsim balls on a daily basis, but remember too much of everything is not good for the body. The simsim seed intake should be moderate and used in addition to other natural healthy nutrients that the body needs.

You might also like this recipe ; How to make Ugandan Daddies

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