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Sweet red bean paste (红豆沙 or hóngdòu shā) is comforting, satisfying and just sweet enough to make it a treat. It is a common ingredient in Chinese and East Asian cuisines and is typically used as a filling in pastries and desserts.
Sweet red bean paste is made with Chinese red beans, which are similar to Japanese adzuki beans but larger - the taste and benefits are the same, and you can also use adzuki beans for this recipe.
Although you can buy ready made sweet red bean paste at most East Asian grocers, you may struggle if you don't have any near where you live. So, it's good to know you can make this important and delicious dessert filling easily at home using more commonly found adzuki beans, either from your local supermarket or health food store.
When cooking the beans, it's important to cook them for long enough until they become really soft and the skins are bursting. You should be able to smash or blend the beans into a soft paste with very little effort. If the beans are undercooked, you will have a very textured and grainy paste, which won't taste that nice. How thick or thin you make the paste is entirely down to personal preference - for a thicker paste, keep the pot over heat for a bit longer to cook off excess liquid, and for a thinner paste, leave a bit more water in the beans before blending.
Some recipes will use a very smooth and refined sweet red bean paste, which is traditionally achieved by pressing the bean puree through a fine sieve to remove the skins. But for home baking purposes, it's not really necessary to do this, and you could simply add a bit of water and blend the sweet red bean paste in a blender or food processor until it is mostly smooth and fluffy. Keeping the skins on the beans is also healthier, as they are an important nutrient source.
However you choose to prepare your sweet red bean paste, you can always make the texture a bit creamier by mixing in some flavourless coconut oil (melt it first) or other flavourless vegetable oil. You could even use butter, if you prefer.
Even amongst pulses, red/adzuki beans are high in protein and low in fat. They are nutrient dense, high in beneficial vitamins and minerals, and low in sodium. As well as having diuretic properties, red/adzuki beans can also help regulate hormonal imbalances, nourish the blood and boost energy levels. These tiny beans pack a lot of punch - so no need to feel guilty about enjoying it in your favourite dessert!
Sweet red bean paste will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for about four days. You can also freeze it in individual portions for a couple of months. Before using, bring it to room temperature, and mix in a little water or oil to thin it out, if necessary.
Use this sweet red bean paste in Baked Sticky Rice Cake (Hong Dou Kao Nian Gao | 红豆 烤年糕) or any other recipe of your choosing.
And now you can make red bean paste in an Instant pot in even less time!
Here's what you'll need to make this sweet red bean paste:
(Click here to jump straight to the recipe)
200g Chinese red beans or adzuki beans
35g light muscovado (brown) sugar
1-2 Tbsp flavourless vegetable oil (optional)
And here's what you'll need to do
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