This blog post is brought to you by Biblio Lotus Team members Megan, Kirk-Bear Canyon Library, and Sharon, Joel D. Valdez Main Library.
Living in South Korea, you see red bean flavored sweets everywhere. From B.B.BIG (비비빅) popsicles sold at convenience stores to sweet red bean porridge (단팥죽), which is eaten during the Winter Solstice, there is a treat for everyone. While I can’t buy steamed red bean paste buns (찐빵) at the local mandu (만두) shop anymore, I can make my own red bean paste and cook up some Korean sweets in Tucson!
Red Bean Paste 팥소
*Note: This recipe makes around 16 oz of red bean paste. If you don’t plan to eat all of it within a few days, I recommend halving the amount of beans and sugar.
- 2 cups adzuki beans (These are called 붉은팥 in Korean. Literally “red beans”)
- ½ cup sugar (This is the minimum I would add. If you like your red beans sweeter, add more sugar. Also, if you want to try something else- honey, agave syrup, brown sugar, rice syrup, etc. -are all good options)
- Pinch of salt
- Filtered water
- Large metal pot
- Wooden spoon or silicone spatula
- Potato masher, food processor, or blender (either immersion or regular)
- Bowl for soaking beans
- Container to store bean paste
- Wash the beans. Dig through them and find irregular beans (discolored, misshaped) and throw them away.
- Soak the remaining beans in water overnight.
- In a large pot, boil the beans. Once the water has come to a boil, let it boil for a few minutes and then drain and wash the beans. This removes some of the astringent flavor from the beans.
- Put the beans back in the pot and add water until it is about an inch higher than the beans.
- Boil the water. Once the water is boiling, lower the heat to medium and cook for one and a half hours to two hours. Test the beans by squeezing one between your fingers. If it is soft and is crushed between your fingers, they’re ready!
- Mash your beans. If you like to keep some of the whole beans, you can use a potato masher and mash them in the pot or use the immersion blender and blend to your preference. If you like your bean paste to be silky smooth, transfer them to a blender or food processor and blend till all of the chunky bits are gone. Once blended, the beans go back in the pot.
- Add your sugar or preferred sweetener with the pinch of salt to the bean paste. Mix until the sugar has liquefied and blended with the bean paste.
- Transfer the bean paste to a container for storing it before you use it for all of your delicious recipes. Allow the bean paste to cool before you put it in the refrigerator or use it for another dish.
When making red bean paste, it's incredibly helpful to see each of the steps, especially in regards to getting the right consistency. I encourage you to watch this YouTube video, How to Make Red Bean Paste.
I grew up in a small northern town in China. People from the north more like to eat varieties of food made from flour as main dishes, on the contrary to the south who mostly eat rice as main dish. Food made from flour (面食) are normally not sweet.
Sweet Red bean buns are a steamed buns with sweet bean fillings, so these are a little sweet. People usually eat them as breakfast. Kids love these sweet bean buns as they are fluffy, soft steamed buns with tasteful sweet beans inside.
Sweet Red Bean Buns 豆沙包
This recipe is a memory from my childhood, part of my family’s favorite eatery.
My mom would cook sweet beans in a pot and make them into a bean paste. Then she makes dough from fermented flour. The buns are not a sweet treat, they are one of the main foods that carries a little flavor from the sweet beans. However, you can modify the recipe to be a pastry like in picture 2.
To make traditional sweet bean buns, what you need is sweet beans, nowadays you can buy canned sweet beans from Asian market, and they are a little watery so you need to combine it with some cornstarch. If you want to cook your own sweet beans like my mom, it is not too hard. You will boil red beans in a cooker, pressure cooker is better because it takes less time.
After the red beans are fully cooked then add some sugar to it, you can add the amount based on your own taste. That is right, my family recipes have no measurements. The second part is to make the dough, let me try to work out a measurement as a guide, which I have never used because I do it by experience.
- In a mixing bowl, add 1-teaspoon sugar to ¼ cup lukewarm water, and stir in the yeast until dissolved. Let sit for 10 minutes until the yeast foams up.
- Add about 2 cups of flour and 1/2 cups warm water, a pinch of salt then mix together and form it to a dough. Set it aside 10 minutes, come back knead it smoothly then leave it for 1 hour and half to 2 hours, until it is doubled.
- Now the dough should be rose, take the dough out, sprinkle some flour on it, and gently knead it. Divide the dough to 8 or 10 parts and make them into round shapes. Press them to flat shape.
- Fun part-you add about 2 spoons beans to a wrapper and seal the edge, makes it round shape again. Do the rest of buns then set aside for another 20 minutes to rise 2nd (This part is important because it makes better fluffy buns, trust me)
- Last, you put all the buns in a steamer, steam for about 20 minutes. Wait about 4 minutes, open the steamer and wait to cool. Now you got delicious sweet red bean buns!
Enjoy your sweet bean buns with family or friends! If you want it to be a type of sweet bean pastry, you will make the dough like making bread. Then follow the other steps, but bake them at the end.