Monday, February 09, 2009

Latern Festival and Red Bean (AKA Azuki) Paste

Red bean (azuki) wiki entry

Today is the Chinese Latern festival, which is appropriately celebrated with glutinous riceballs. It used to be that you only had these sweets around this festival, but nowadays you can find frozen ones in Asian supermarkets all year round. Funny enough, my favorite flavor is actually not red bean, I like the black sesame kind the best. 

I was browsing Japanese recipes when I stumbled upon red bean paste recipes (Recipes referenced: Just Hungry Blog, Applepie Blog). J is actually pretty fond of red bean filled pastries and buns from all the Chinese bakeries and I've never made the paste from scratch so wanted to give it a try.

Maybe I did not use the appropriate pot, but when I followed the online recipes for soaking and cooking azuki, the beans did not soften after 1 hour or more. So i decided to modify the recipe and just use a pressure cooker. The results turned out great. Note I still need to try the recipe another time just to make sure it works. My first attempt was a combo of stove cooking + pressure cooker + stove again. You can probably skip the first steps and just add sugar to azuki and water when you put it in the pressure stove. 

//1 cup azuki (washed, soaked over night)
//half cup sugar (or less, depending on how sweet you prefer it)
//pinch of salt
//2 cups water (or more, depending on how you cook it)
//pressure cooker or a pot big enough to put beans and water in

Cooking Directions
1. Place azuki with water in a pot. Boil, then drain.
2. Place azuki with new water, boil again, then drain.
3. Place azuki with new water, sugar, and salt. stir and boil.
4. Put azuki and sugar water mixture in pressure cooker
5. Cook for 15 minutes or so until azuki becomes very soft, almost mushy. Note instructional manual for your pressure cooker. My pressure cooker suggests 5-6 minutes for azuki but since we're making paste I adjusted time. 
6. After you let pressure cooker cool off, take out the azuki+water mixture and place in saucepan or small pot
7. boil off the water from the mixture slowly on low heat. at the same time mash with folk or other mashing tool of choice. Keep stirring to keep from sticking.
8. Turn off stove when the mixture forms some consistency (to your liking). I kept mine somewhat moist but it definitely keeps its form when I leave it alone.

What do you do with the paste now that you have it? Some ideas I've come up with and tried successfully.
//eat it with ice cream (vanilla is great, although I think it's great with cookies n cream too)
//make milk shake. mix in same amount of paste as ice cream, add milk, blend
//use it as a spread or filling for pastry
//eat it by itself with a spoon!
//use it for any recipes that you need for red bean paste. hey this is from scratch!

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