If chocolate is that ubiquitous, go-to complement and condiment to Western desserts, then Azuki bean paste is that to Eastern desserts. Azuki or red bean paste can be seen in steamed buns when you go to dim sum or in grocery store freezers when you buy red bean ice cream or mochi. And on streets across Taiwan or Hong Kong or Japan, you’ll see stands that sell these wheel-shaped cakes (imagawayki) filled with fillings like red bean paste.
The paste is super versatile and honestly, can be used for filling in so many things. Surprisingly however, even though the ingredients are only beans, water, and sugar, some Asian grocery stores sell Azuki bean paste pretty expensively. I’ve seen a 12-ounce can go for six or seven dollars! It’s true that depending on the quality of the bean used, Azuki bean paste prices can vary, but even if you buy the most expensive dried red beans at the market - usually a Japanese or Korean variety - you can cut down the cost by half easily. I personally like making it myself because I can adjust for sweetness and mash the beans up to the exact texture I want. Tsubuan is the one I made today, which still has a chunkier texture versus koshian, which is entirely smooth. It’s also super easy to make and freeze-able, so you’ll have a filling for desserts any time you want to make one.
1. Soak Beans Overnight.
Boil Azuki beans with several cups of water, making sure water level is about 2 inches above the beans. Once boiling, turn heat off and let beans sit for 5 minutes covered. Drain beans.
3. Put the beans back onto the pot. Add more water to just cover the beans. Bring water to a boil and simmer for 1 hour, adding additional water when needed to make sure beans are covered.
4. After 1 hour, drain and test beans with fingers. It should break apart easily. Then turn heat to high and add sugar in several installments, stirring between each one until dissolved. Turn off heat and let paste thicken.
5. Use a wooden spoon to mash up the beans if needed. Transfer paste to a container and put in refrigerator. Paste can be kept for several days and can also be frozen.
- 1 cup Azuki beans
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt