a bean by any name: azuki, hong dou (紅豆), haricot rouge, red bean

Finished azuki. Still chunky but you can see the paste on the sppon

Finished azuki. Still chunky but you can see the paste on the spoon

i got my sack of red beans, organic, $1.79/lb in the bulk food section of WF.  probably much cheaper and much less organic in the chinatown groceries. i’ll have to go check one of these days and report back. $4 buys you about 2.25 lbs at WF, which is about 5 1/2 cups of the glorious stuff

anpan and azuki go together, kinda like jelly in a doughnut, or chocolate in a croissant. sometimes, like now per se, the azuki goes off on a tangent all its own. maybe it does deserve to be something more than what you buy in a can.  typically served on its own, i came across azuki in a medley of dulce de leche-esque blends by maestro pastry chef Sadaharu Aoki last weekend.  he’s mixing together azuki and milk OR azuki and pear OR matcha, azuki and milk into a confiture. i’ve got 2 jars sitting in my cupboard winking at me; it won’t take much cajoling.   you can get a glimpse of his concoctions on his website (http://www.sadaharuaoki.com). i think he’s rather genius.

hello my precious

hello my precious

azuki paste, when used in asian sweets, is really like an asian chocolate ganache. ooey, gooey, sweet, rich, dense, kinda nutty too. it’s the taste of my childhood stuffed into mooncakes, asian puff pastry doughs or steamed man-tou. but it can be so much more.  i like the french name, haricot rouge, sounds like some obscure ingredient that belongs in the pantheon of fancy french ingredients.

you can buy pre-made azuki paste in a can. i think it runs about $2-$4 for a 8 or 16 oz jar, really depends on the quality.  the chinese variety tends to be darker, more oily, sometimes denser, sometimes more runny and you most definitely can’t see the beans anymore.  the japanese azuki paste appears to be more of a powdery mauve, kinda like a taro paste but more reddish than purple.  you can sometimes still see the lumps and the shells.  i don’t think the japanese version strains or grinds the beans so as to rid the shells. (note: i’ve seen the “chinese” variety in japan as well and vice versa but indulge my shorthanded language).  i’ll take a look at the ingredient lists and report back one of these days.

i made my own batch this morning and i’ll be experimenting with it shortly. maybe it will make a good substitute for all those temperamental ganaches or the $14 packaged bags of extortion, oops!, almond flour at WF.  maybe it will be its own thing. i dream of red beans . . . 紅豆夢!

here’s my take on the japanese version

Azuki Paste
(makes a lot, like ~3 quarts of the stuff)
(nb. rather time consuming! kinda like making jam or dulce de leche)

Azuki Beans                       2 lbs (also spelled as Adzuki)
Sugar                                   3 cups (depends on how sweet you like it)
Baking Soda                       a pinch
Water                                   enough to fill a pot and rinse several times

  1. Soak the beans in water overnight.  I dump the beans into my 5 quart dutch oven.
  2. The next morning, drain the beans, rinse and put them back into the pot covered with water about 1-inch above the beans
  3. Bring the pot to a boil and repeat step 2
  4. Add sugar and baking soda to the beans
  5. Simmer the beans on medium heat until the beans are softened and fall apart. Stir with a whisk intermittently to help break apart the beans. Takes about 1-2 hours for it to gurgle and bubble away.  (You have to watch the beans intermittently to make sure it doesn’t burn. You might need to add more water but not too much or it will take forever to boil off. Actually, you can always dilute the paste with water to make it into a traditional red bean dessert soup or add some agar to make it into a jello of sorts but that’s another post)

2 responses to “a bean by any name: azuki, hong dou (紅豆), haricot rouge, red bean

  1. dear tomato in tribeca – per chance what is the reason for adding baking soda? also do you force the paste through a strainer to refine it further?


  2. dear preying manis:

    baking soda – you can leave out the baking soda but i find that the alkalinity helps to break down the beans, producing a slightly creamier texture.

    strainer – you can push it through a strainer, food mill or put it into a blender or food processor to refine it further

    happy azuki making!

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