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RECIPE FOR HOW TO MAKE RED BEAN PASTE
500g dried red beans (azuka beans)
250-280g sugar (note 1)
100-120ml vegetable or salad oil (any flavourless oil) (note 2)
Water for cooking and blending (1.2 liter at the initial stage of cooking)
- Wash and rinse the beans. Soak with water for 2-3 hours and then discard water. Put the beans into containers and filled with filtered water. Keep in the freezer overnight or until the day you cook the beans.
- In a large cooking pot, add the frozen beans (no need to defrost) and 1.2 litre water. Make sure the water is above the beans. Bring the water to a boil and cook with medium low heat for 15 minutes leaving the lid off. Use a spatula to spread out the beans. Discard any impurities floating on the surface of the water.
- Off the heat, cover the pot with lid and let the beans sit inside for 20 minutes. This allows the beans to absorb more water and expand. They will soften faster when they are cooked again for a second time at step 4.
- Remove the lid, add extra water to cover the beans (about 2-3cm above). Cook the beans with medium low heat until they are soft (about 15 -20 minutes). Stir the beans once or twice. Lower the heat if the water evaporates too fast. Be sure that the water is always above the beans (about 2-3cm). Add more water if needed. Test for doneness of the beans. They should be easily mashed with spatula or finger tips. Make sure all the beans are cooked through. Otherwise, continue cooking.
- When the beans are cooked, off the heat. Cover the pot with lid again and let the beans sit inside for another 15 minutes to cool.
- Transfer the cooked beans to a blender or food processor. Handheld blender works as well. Reserve any excess liquid. For chunky paste, reserve some beans. Blend or process the bean mixture as smooth as you can. You may have to do it in batches. Add some reserved liquid or water if needed.
- Transfer the bean puree (and the reserved beans if any) to a heavy bottom pan or wok. Add sugar in 2-3 batches. Cook the mixture with low heat. Keep stirring to avoid the paste from sticking to the bottom.
- When the mixture has thickened slightly, add oil in 2-3 batches to combine. Cook until the mixture has thickened to the right consistency. When you stir with a spatula, the mixture will not spread out easily and can hold its shape. It will thicken more after cooling down completely. For making pao (Chinese steamed bun) or bun filling, the consistency must be firmer, neither too wet nor too dry. Test by taking a small portion, cool it down a little and roll into a small ball.
- Divide the paste into small portions and store in airtight container or freezer bags. You can store it for a week in the fridge or up to a month in the freezer.
- You can use any type of sugar you like. I use a mix of cane sugar and brown sugar. Feel free to adjust the sweetness to your personal preference.
- Oil is used to make the paste smoother and shinier. I use sunflower seed oil. Other options are peanut oil, sunflower oil, corn oil or even butter. You can use more or less as you like.
- For a chunky paste, you can use spatula or potato masher to mash the mixture. For a more refined and smoother paste, use a large spoon or spatula to press the cooked beans through a fine sieve or colander so as to separate the skins from the beans. This step is quite a hassle and time-consuming.