Red bean paste or Azuki bean paste is a sweet, dark red bean paste originating from China. It is used in Chinese cuisine, Japanese confectionery, and Korean cuisine. It is prepared by boiling and mashing azuki beans and then sweetening the paste with sugar or honey.
The husk of the beans may be removed by sieving before sweetening, which leads to a smoother and more homogeneous paste.
Types of Red Bean Paste
Red bean paste is graded according to its consistency. In Chinese cuisine, the most common types are:
- Mashed: Azuki beans are boiled with sugar and mashed. The paste is smooth with bits of broken beans and bean husk. Depending on the intended texture, the beans can be vigorously or lightly mashed. Some unmashed beans can also be added back into the bean paste for additional texture. This is the most common and popular type of red bean paste eaten in Chinese confections. Can also be eaten on its own or in sweet soups.
- Smooth: Azuki beans are boiled without sugar, mashed, and diluted into a slurry. The slurry is then strained through a sieve to remove the husk, filtered, and squeezed dry using cheesecloth. Although, the dry paste can be directly sweetened and used, Oil, either vegetable oil or lard, is usually used to cook the dry paste and improve its texture and mouth feel. Smooth bean paste is mainly found as fillings for Chinese pastries.
In Japanese cuisine, the most common types are:
- Tsubuan, whole red beans boiled with sugar but otherwise untreated
- Tsubushian, where the beans are mashed after boiling
- Koshian, which has been passed through a sieve to remove bean skins; the most common type
- Sarashian, which has been dried and reconstituted with water
Uses of Red Bean Paste
Red bean paste is used in many Chinese foods, such as:
- Red Bean Soup – Red bean soup refers to various traditional Asian soups made with azuki beans.
- Tangyuan – Glutinous rice balls filled with sweet fillings such as red bean paste and boiled in plain or sweetened water
- Zongzi – Glutinous rice and red bean paste wrapped with bamboo leaves and steamed or boiled. The glutinous rice used to make zongzi is usually specially prepared and appears yellow.
- Mooncakes – A baked pastry consisting of thin dough surrounding a filling. The filling is traditionally made from various ingredients, including mashed lotus seeds, red bean paste, or other fillings. The texture of this filling is quite similar to straight red bean paste.
- Baozi: Steamed leavened bread filled with a variety of savoury or sweet fillings
- Jin deui: Fried pastry made from glutinous rice flour, sometimes filled with red bean paste
- Red bean cake
- Red bean pancake
Red bean paste is used in many Japanese sweets.
- Anmitsu – A dessert consisting of red bean paste, small cubes of agar jelly, and pieces of fruit served with syrup.
- Anpan – A sweet bun filled with red bean paste.
- Daifuku – a confection consisting of a small round rice cake stuffed with red bean paste.
- Dango – A dumpling made from rice flour topped with red bean paste.
- Dorayaki, a confection consisting of two small pancake-like patties made from castella wrapped around a filling of red bean paste.
- Manju, a steamed cake filled with red bean paste.
- Oshiruko or Zenzai, azuki bean soup, commonly served with rice cake.
- Taiyaki – a fish-shaped cake stuffed with red bean paste.
- Yo-kan, a thick jellied dessert made of red bean paste, agar, and sugar.
Red bean paste is used in various Korean snack foods and desserts; including:
- Baram tteok
- Chalboribbang, a type of small and sweet pancakes made from glutinous barley flour. It consists of two layers of pancake filled with red bean paste. It is translated as “glutinous barley bread” or “sticky barley bread” into English.
- Gyeongju bread
- Patjuk, red bean soup, commonly eaten during the Winter Solstice festival
- Patt sirutteok
- Songpyeon – a variety of tteok (Korean rice cake) eaten in Hangawi (a harvest festival). Some variants of songpyeon are filled with patso.