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Red Bean Paste (红豆沙)

Red bean paste is a sweet bean paste made from azuki beans. It is used as a filling for many Japanese sweets. It requires only 2 ingredients and is easy to make. We are going to explain an easy way to make this delicious paste, including some special tips.

You are able to make many yummy desserts with this red bean paste. Although commercial ready-to-use red bean paste is available in Chinese/Asian shops, the homemade version tastes so much better (not to mention there is no additives, artificial colouring or flavouring). And it’s very easy to make! The cooked beans are mashed into either a fine, smooth or rustic, chunky texture. You can even enjoy this sweet and gooey red bean paste is so delicious that you can even eat it by itself.

Types of Red Bean Paste

There are two types of Red Bean Paste  – mashed and smooth. The mashed red bean paste is the most common for home cooking and is the one we include in the recipe below. You only need to boil the azuki beans with sugar until very soft, then smash them to the texture you prefer. The finished paste will have a consistent thick texture that is easy to shape and contains some whole and broken beans. For smooth red bean paste is a bit of a hassle to make and normally can just be purchased from a Chinese or Japanese market. For the smooth paste, the azuki beans are boiled and mashed without adding sugar. You will also need to strain and remove the husk to make the paste smoother.

Soak Overnight

Before we move onto cooking, some preparation is needed. To reduce the cooking time, remember to rehydrate adzuki beans beforehand. Put the beans into a bowl then pour in water. Leave to soak overnight. Unlike many other dried ingredients, it wouldn’t be enough to just soak them for a few hours. For those that are lucky and have a pressure cooker at home, you can ignore this step.

Tip 1: Choosing the right bean
Azuki beans are also known as Azuki or Aduki beans or red mung beans. They are a small bean cultivated in Asia. In Japan, there are two types of Azuki beans in terms of size; ordinary adzuki and Dainagon. Dainagon is bigger and about 5.5mm(0.2 inch) in diameter. You can get ordinary Azuki Beans from Asian grocery stores and online.

Rock Sugar and Lump Sugar VS White Sugar

To sweeten the beans, you may use any type of sugar (rock sugar, Bing Tang/冰糖, is a traditional option). In this recipe we usI like the combination of white sugar and dark brown sugar (see image above). The latter offers a nice caramel taste which I appreciate very much. 

Rock Sugar
Rock sugar (or rock candy) is refined, crystalized sugar in small cubes or in irregular lumps. Lightly transparent, its colour can be white or light yellow. Compare to regular sugar, it has a milder taste, that is to say, it’s less sweet. We came across the market for this Yellow Lump Sugar (which is what we used for this recipe), it looks smaller than Rock Sugar, however, don’t worry it taste the same. As the size of the is the Yellow Lump Sugar is similar this allow them to dissolve at (almost) the same period of time. This Rock Sugar is harder to spot in the western supermarket, you can get them at the Asian market. However, you can always use granular sugar as a replacement if you don’t have any rock sugar.

White Sugar
Although there are rumor saying there are some health benefit for Rock Sugar however it is not proven. One thing for sure the White Sugar are sweeter then the Rock Sugar, therefore if you are using the White Sugar please control the among you will be adding in.

Tip 2: Control the among of sugar you adding
There isn’t a set bean sugar ratio for this paste. Although we give precise measurements in the recipe card below, you’re totally free to adjust the quantity of sugar based on your preferred sweetness (This is one of the advantages homemade red bean paste has over the shop-bought version). Since the beans are already cooked when you add the sugar, it’s perfectly safe to give it a taste.

Cook the Bean Thoroughly

After soaking, drain the beans and rinse well under running water. Put the beans into a small pot and add water enough to cover all the beans. Bring it to a boil then leave to simmer for 60-90 minutes until they become soft and easy to be crushed. Don’t forget to check the water level halfway through. Top up if necessary to avoid burning.

You can smash the red bean once it is cooked and before adding the sugar of your choice. We use a handheld blender to blend at high speed into a with still a slightly bean in it. Add in the rock sugar and cook at high. Stir it regularly to avoid getting burnt. When you draw a line in the mixture, it means it is almost don’t. Don’t worry it will thicken once it is cool down.

Alternative Method using Pressure Cooker
You can save time cooking red beans by using a pressure cooker. Wash the beans and cook them for 15 minutes in simmering water. Drain the cooking water and add clean water and repeat the same to remove astringency. Then drain the water again and add just enough water to cover the beans and cook in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes. Drain the water, add sugar and the rest is the same.

Tip 3: Make sure the bean is cooked thoroughly
Make sure the bean is cooked thoroughly before adding in your sugar, as the sugar will slow down the cooking time of the red bean if it is still uncooked. It will also fasten the burn process of the red bean paste, therefore will stir it more regularly compared to when the sugar is not added.

How to Store & Storage Duration?

Keep the paste in an airtight container. It will keep for a week in the fridge and for about a month in the freezer. If possible divide the paste into the amount that you would use at a time.

Please keep your eye on the pot to avoid any burnt, it is simple yet a challenging dish. We almost have a panic attack as we doesn’t know if the paste is too watery or alright for cool down. However if you have master this dish, all your other dessert will be delicious too.

xoxo, Joe

Red Bean Paste

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of red bean

  • 400g of rock sugar

Method

  • Soak the azuki red bean in the water up to 4 hours or overnight.
  • Rinse and drain before covering it with water. Boiled the red bean for 1 hour till it is soft, run through using a fork if you are able to smash it. Add in the rock sugar and cook at high. Stir it regularly to avoid getting burnt. When you draw a line in the mixture, it means it is almost don’t. Don’t worry it will thicken once it is cool down.
  • You are able to store them at the fridge in an air tight container for up to a week, or zip lock them in the freezer for a month.

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