Happy Chinese New Year – the Year of Snake!! Last Sunday was the first day of the Luna year, and traditionally, we celebrate the New Year with a celebration lasting 15 days. So this week, we will be cooking something sweet to celebrate Chinese New Year – red bean soup with mochi. Red bean soup is a very popular dessert in China: a ‘sweet soup’ or we Chinese call it ‘sugar water’ made of red beans, water and rock sugar. Normally served warm but sometimes cold during summer. I remember we would make lollipops with the left over red bean soup when we were kids!
A good friend of mine, Sumi and I once cooked together for a girly lunch and she made this red bean soup with mochi as dessert – it was divine! I, of course, was watching and learning how to make this amazingly silky but on the other hand full of texture from the red bean and chewy mochi! She was generous enough to share this recipe with me – so I called it Sumi’s red bean soup! This recipe though is a Japanese version known as Zenzai. It is served with mochi (little rice cakes made of glutinous rice flour) and the soup is thicker in texture than the Chinese one. Red bean paste is made first and then water is added to make the soup. The red bean paste itself can also be used for many other yummy desserts as red bean ice cream, red bean pancake, red bean mochi etc. I like the flexibility of this recipe, so I am looking forward to sharing it with you!!
For the Red Bean Paste:
(makes about 1kg)
- 250g red beans (Azuki), soaked in water over night
- 100-150g granulated sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 800 ml – 1 liter water
For the mochi:
(makes about 15-16 pieces)
- 150g Gloutinous rice flour or mochi flour
- about 130ml Lukewarm water
To make the red bean paste:
In a medium saucepan cook Azuki in the same water used for soaking. Let it boil for a few minutes then drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Return the Azuki in the pan and add enough water to cover the beans (about 3 cm above the beans), bring to boil, then simmer for about 1 hour (you will need to add water from time to time, always add just enough water). If you have a pressure cooker, then cook with low pressure for 10 minutes. To test if ready: Take one bean and crush it with your fingers, and if it breaks easily, then it’s done. If not, cook for another 10 to 20 minutes (for pressure cooker, another 5 minutes).
Now turn the heat up to medium and cook the beans without a lid for about 40 minutes, add sugar 3 separate times (you can decide how sweet the paste is), stir from time to time. Cook until all liquid evaporates and beans are shiny and you can see the bottom of the pot easily when you scrape with a wooden spoon.
Left over paste can be deep frozen in portions wrapped in cling film.
To make the mochi:
Add lukewarm water slowly to the rice flour in a bowl and mix until a dough forms easily without sticking to your fingers, and the texture is soft like an ear lobe.
Make a bunch of small balls and drop them in a pot of boiling water.
Scoop them out once they float on the surface and place them in a bowl of cold water until ready to use.
To make the Red Bean Soup:
(1 cup paste makes about 2-3 servings)
Add about 3/4 cup of water (depends on your liking of the thickness) to 1 cup of Red Bean Paste. Once you achieve the desired consistency of the soup, drop the mochi in and just warm them up. Serve warm.