Making Adzuki Bean Paste

This staple Asian pastry filling is best made from scratch, since store bought is not only hard to find, it’s of highly variable consistency, texture, color and sweetness. Make it yourself and you can control all those factors, and it’s not difficult. Think of it as a sweet Asian version of refried beans, though now that I think about it, adzuki paste’s starchy sweetness reminds me more of thick mashed sweet potatoes. Excellent! Begin by soaking about a three cups of dried adzuki beans (available at Asian markets and/or your nearest Whole Foods in the bulk section) in water for about six hours.

Put the pot on the heat and bring it to the boil. At that point strain the whole mess, pour cold water over them and start again. Bring the beans to the boil a second time, then turn the pot down to a simmer and cook them about one and a half hours, adding water when needed, until the beans can easily be squished to paste between your fingers.

Strain them (your batch will produce more than this…this photo just turned out well)

Now comes the laborious part. That is unless you have one of these strainer attachments for your stand mixer. We used this to make baby food when the girls were younger, but it’s great for making a smooth bean paste, which you have to press through a strainer with the back of a spoon otherwise. That’s not the end of the world, but it’ll take you a good ten minutes of pressing.

Me, I just poured the beans into the insert, attached the little flat blade to the stand mixer, and turned it on. It pushed the beans through the screen in about 3 minutes, leaving a residue of skins (note: this is the remains of a bout six cups of uncooked beans…I made extra in case of mooncake disaster).

The bean starch just got pushed through and ended up in the bowl like so. Nice! You can of course skip this step to make a rustic, chunky bean paste. Me, I like my adzuki bean paste smooth like my (imaginary) Chinese grandmother made it.

So then. Once the paste cools completely it will be quite firm, again, like leftover frijoles refritos. These are cold as I refrigerated them while went out of town over the weekend. To make the finished paste, put four cups of mashed beans in a saucepan add about 3/4 teaspoon of salt…

…and 1 1/4 cups cup of golden syrup or refiner’s syrup to the beans. You can add more or less. The syrup not only keeps the mixture thick, it adds caramel and/or molasses notes to the paste (it also works as a preservative). You can use brown sugar or granulated sugar if you like, though you’ll get a somewhat thinner consistency.

Bring the paste up to the boil. Now then, since this paste is going into mooncakes and I wanted a nice purply sunset color for my cooked egg moons — rather than gray/red — I added some red food coloring. Do as you will!

Then I turned the paste out onto a sheet pan for faster cooling.

After about half an hour it was ready to be used or refrigerated again until the time was ripe!

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12 Responses to Making Adzuki Bean Paste

  1. Nicole says:

    Nifty! Would you mind adding a photo of that strainer attachment from the side, showing how it sits in relation to the rest of the mixer? My brain’s having trouble with that. I have the fruit/vegetable strainer for the KitchenAid – I wonder if it would work just as well.

    • Kitty says:

      http://youtu.be/-_zTZn0Jsns
      I recently got a machine so I knew exactly what the attachment is (obviously not exact since I don’t recall him having a kenwood, but it should work the same)
      And no, I don’t have said attachment, I just know of it from leafing through the list of things it can take. :P

      • joepastry says:

        That’s it, that’s the thing. It’s really a food mill like reader Eva says below. Thanks for the link, Kitty!

        - Joe

  2. Eva says:

    Is your attachment like a food mill? Could a food mill be used as well?

    Thanks Joe!

    Eva

    • joepastry says:

      Yes, indeed that’s really what it is, Eva, a food mill attachment that fits on the mixer. But a conventional hand-crank food mill will work just as well. Thanks for reminding me!

      - Joe

  3. Brian Shaw says:

    I knew you could do it. Like the “little engine who could”… you just keep trying and trying and trying. Good for you!

    Now maybe I can too!

    I am especially pleased that your method does not include the huge amount of oil that is in the recipe that I (and Emeril, so I recently found out) tried.

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Brian!

      Thanks home boy. Yes oil would only make the paste runnier. Personally I don’t think the finished cakes need the added richness. But I might try adding a little sometime just to see. I’m getting to rather like these! ;)

      Cheers,

      - Joe

    • joepastry says:

      Also it’s too embarrassing to simply admit defeat. I have to keep on going. Shame propels me!

      - Joe

  4. Yukiko says:

    That strainer is awesome! I want it too. In Japanese recipes the cooked beans are mashed in their cooking liquid + some extra water: the bean mash and the skins are first in a strainer which is partly under the liquid (of course the strainer is inside a bowl. This part is a bit difficult to explain :D ). That way the starchy inner part of the beans is dissolved in the water and then you can strain the liquid from the bean skins (though some pressing has to be done, it’s lot easier). The starchy mass sinks to the bottom and then you can pour the liquid off and using a cheesecloth or similar, press the rest of the liquid away. I make my smooth bean paste this way :) This method probably makes less intense tasting bean paste, but if I want the intense taste, I use chunky bean paste :)

    • joepastry says:

      They really are very handy, Yukiko. Maybe a technique you can use when you don’t have time for the other. I don’t use it all that often, but some days (like last week) it’s a life saver!

      - Joe

  5. sjthespian says:

    Another great use for this is anpan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anpan). Or, if you really want to go all out use it for filling in croissants instead of chocolate. The Hilton Tokyo Bay hotel used to have those available for breakfast and I fell in love with them!

    We haven’t tried making our own paste though, it’s too easy to pick it up by the pound at the local Japanese groceries here in Northern California.

    • joepastry says:

      Wonderful! There’s something else to try for sure. Thank you. I’d love to try it in a croissant also, nice idea. But yeah, access is everything when it comes to making Asian foods!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

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