Red bean (azuki bean) paste is widely used in Chinese and Japanese confectioneries. The ready-made red bean paste sold in the stores usually contains preservatives and is laden with oil and sugar. Hence, it is definitely a healthier choice to make your own as you will be in full control over the ingredients you put in. You can adjust the amount of sugar and oil to your liking, select better quality red beans and use healthier oil for the paste.
I have been making red bean paste recently which I use for pao (steamed Chinese bun) filling and bread spread. So I thought of sharing the methods I use to make the red bean paste with you. It is easy to follow but be prepared to spend 2-3 hours of “hard labour”. Don’t worry, it is surely worth the effort.
Here are the steps:
a) Soak and freeze the beans
I apply the same freezing principle as what I did when making my quick congee. You can freeze the beans in advance as they can be kept in the freezer for weeks. Normally, dried red beans are sold in a standard 500g packaging. For beginners, I recommend that you divide it to 2 equal portions for freezing so that you can cook them in a smaller amount over a shorter time.
b) Cook the beans until soft
I had read from the internet that you can cook the beans with different type of appliances such as gas cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker or even bread maker. So far, I haven’t tried any except for gas cooker. What I did was to cook the beans for 15 minutes, switch off the heat and let the beans sit inside for another 20 minutes before repeating this process one more time. During the interval between cooking, the beans will absorb the water and expand. This will help the beans break down easily and soften when they are cooked for a second time. Comparing with continuous cooking process, this method effectively cut short the entire cooking time (indirectly saving on your gas consumption) and still manage to achieve the same end result.
c) Puree or mash the beans until smooth
You can use a food processor, blender or handheld blend to puree the beans as smooth as you can. For chunky texture, you can simply use wooden spoon or potato masher to mash the cooked beans. As for a more refined texture, you will have to use a large spoon or spatula to press the beans through a sieve or colander so as to separate the skins. This extra step is quite tedious as you need to do it manually. Usually I will just opt for a food blender to do the job.
d) Stir-fry the beans until paste-consistency texture
In this process, sugar and oil are mixed together with the pureed beans. The sugar will add sweetness and darken the red colour of the paste. You can adjust the amount of sugar to your liking. For oil, it will make the paste smoother and shinier but you will find that most Japanese recipes omit the oil. Lard is commonly used in the ready-made red bean paste. However, you can opt for healthy oil such as sunflower oil, peanut oil or any vegetable oil. It is also fine to use butter. The red bean mixture needs to be stir-fried until it reaches the texture and consistency of the type of dessert you intend to make. If you want it as bread spread, the texture will be as shown on the first photo above. But, if you want to use it as filing for pao (Chinese steamed bun) and bun, then the texture must be firmer (slightly drier). It means that you should be able to roll it into small tiny balls as shown on the photo below.
After the red bean paste has cooled down completely, divide it into small portions and store in freezer bags or air-tight container. You can store them for a week in the fridge or up to a month in the freezer.
In my next post, I will share with you a recipe for wholemeal pau with red bean paste filing. Meanwhile, I will also include some useful tips on how to make “perfect looking” soft paus. So, stay tuned!
Please refer tofor recipe and step by step tutorials.
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