I truly like how I could control the consistency of homemade red bean paste, making it versatile for different uses.
Like peanut butter, red bean paste can be made two ways – chunky and pureed – even in the same steps. Sometimes, when I’m less precise, they would even give me an extra bowl of soup, a bonus which I too enjoy having it.
By chunky, I mean the beans, though might have exploded, still hold their shapes. But when gently mashed, they should be soft and chalky inside rather than having a firm core.
The preparation starts from soaking, hours of soaking. Although that might remove part of their vitamins and minerals, I also want my red bean paste to be free of pesticides and impurities. That is why apart from soaking, I also blanch the beans briefly.
After soaking and boiling to the right consistency, we are also almost there having our red bean paste ready. For a smooth texture, we will need to puree the softened bean through a fine sieve before mixing it with sugar (or syrup).
Pureed red bean paste can be used in many Chinese recipes. I like it in dumplings (tong yuen), in buns, in crepes and even in puddings.
One cup of dried red beans shall yield about two to 3 cups of (loosely packed) cooked beans. Its volume however will be reduced by half or more after pureed.
I just harvested one cup of cooked beans out of the three. But instead of making it into a fine paste, I retained its chunky texture for filling my dorayaki, a Japanese pancake. The remaining was then stored in fridge without the add of sugar, for which I have yet to decide whether to add it in a sweet soup to puree it into a smooth paste.
- 1 C dried red beans (aka azuki beans)
- ~5 C water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- sugar or syrup to taste
- (I added about 4 tbsp sugar per 1 cup of cooked beans)
Rinse red beans; sort out the bad ones – those discolored or float to the water surface. Cover beans by a couple centimeters of water and soak them for several hours (no less than 2 hours or per package directions). Discard water.
With several cups of boiling water, briefly blanch the beans for about a minute. Drain and discard water.
In a heavy bottom pot, add beans, salt and water, bring them to a boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer until one tenth of the liquid remains. It shall take you about 1 1/2 hours (my cast iron do it slightly less than that). You may also want to check it out occasionally to make sure there is no spilling and the liquid does not dry out. A trick I often employ to avoid frequent checking is to add more water and to leave the cover ajar. As a result, I gain some extra bean liquor good for making a sweet soup.
For a chunky paste: Mix in sugar while there is about one ten of liquid left. Stir regularly to dissolve sugar, and simmer it to your desired consistency. Switch to medium heat if you want to speed up the process.
For a smooth paste: Drain cooked beans in a fine sieve or colander (save the liquid). With the back of a spoon or spatula, mash beans through the sieve and harvest them with a bowl or pot underneath. Return the fine paste to pot and cook it with sugar as you would for a chunky paste.
If you are not time-pressed, a slow cooker (crock pot) may even help cook the beans almost effortlessly. Just cover the beans by enough water in the cooker and boil them until tender (I covered mine with about 4 cm water and cook them for about 6 hours). Transfer the cooked beans to a pot and continue with the remaining steps.
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