Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bakertan Cooks Dessert - Red Bean Soup

In Chinese context, desserts are usually served as wam soups, custards or pastes. The cantonese especially, loves to prepare what is known as Sweet Soups or Tong Sui (糖水). An example of a cantonese sweet soup is the Red Bean Soup.

As the name suggests, red bean soup uses adzuki beans which is commonly known as red beans to the chinese. The preparation of this sweet dessert soup is rather simple and does not require much effort, which suits newbie cooks like me perfectly.

The preparation process starts off with rinsing the dried adzuki beans in water and soaking them in water for 2 hours or overnight to soften them. After soaking, the beans will swell up. Next, simply add these beans into a pot filled with water. Drop in some chopped dried orange peel and a knot of pandan leaves (screwpine) and bring the mixture to a simmer. The orange peel will impart a nice citrusy flavour whereas the pandan leaves will bring out the aroma of the sweet soup. When the beans have softened and the soup becomes murky, add in rock sugar to taste and the sweet soup is ready to be served. Voila! (Some people like their red beans to be all mushy and sandy, where the red bean skin has separated from the interior. I like mine to be softened yet retain its bean form, as can be seen in the pictures.)

Sounds simple eh? It is as simple as it sounds! I have prepared this several times and brought a pot of it to a potluck on one ocassion. After sampling it, my friends gave the thumbs up.   

In the pictures, my red bean soup looks very watery. This is because I ladled out a portion of it into a smaller pot. Towards the bottom of the pot, the consistency becomes thicker and paste-like. Be sure to give your red bean soup a good stir become you ladle it out into a bowl. I am quite a fan of red beans and love to have my red bean soup served chilled.

Red Bean Soup (recipe adapted from Delicious Nyonya Kueh & Desserts by Patricia Lee)
Serving size: 10 - 12 bowls
Texture and taste: Soupy and murky with the goodness of adzuki beans with a hint of citrus.
Equipment and materials:
1) A large pot
2) Ladle

500g dried adzuki/red beans (1 packet)
8g dried orange peel, finely chopped (obtain from chinese medicinal halls)
7-8 pandan leaves (screwpine leaves), washed and tied into a knot
2.3 litres of water
200 - 240g rock sugar to taste

Cooking the red bean soup:
Soak the beans: Rinse the dried beans well. Soak them in water for 2 hours or overnight. Discard the water.

Boiling the soup: Place the beans with the chopped orange peel and pandan leaves in a pot filled with 2.3 litres of water. Bring the water to a simmer and cover 3/4 of the surface of the pot with a lid. Let the mixture simmer until the beans are softened. Start checking on the softness of the beans after 45 minutes and every 20 minutes afterwards (It takes a very long time to soften the beans. I did'nt really take note of the time. 45 minutes is probably not enough but will be a good time to start checking). It can take up to 2 hours or even longer to reach the desired softness, depending on the strength of the boil.

After boiling the mixture for some time, a portion of the water would have evaporated. Add in water to bring it to the original level.

Adding sugar: When the beans have softened to your liking, add in the rock sugar to taste, stirring until they have dissolved. turn off the flame and serve the dessert warm. Remove and discard the pandan leaves.

1) Lily buds and lotus seeds go along quite with this dessert, as suggested by my friend Pei-Lin.
2) I prefer to use rock sugar for red bean soup as it brings a different kind of sweetness to it.


  1. Oooo...I like red beans too! I love those where they added in sago as well, and yes, chilled version is my favorite too!

  2. Oh, you only cook your beans for 45 minutes?
    I do them for a minimum of 2 hours, and that's after soaking.
    I like mine all broken up and the beans all mushy and sandy.
    If unsoaked, the beans could take up to 3 to 4 hours to reach that stage.
    It's a matter or preference, about the texture of the tong sui. Just like rice congee, some like it smooth, some like it granular.

  3. I like red bean soup too! I only cook it with dried orange peel but not pandan leaves, next time I will add it in, since my pandan plant is growing very well :)

  4. Thanks ZY! This looks great. Now time to "recruit".

  5. Nothing beats simplicity with classic treats like 柑皮紅豆沙. Really, adding lily buds (百合) will be good too ... of course, it's optional.

    Depends on the weather/temperature of the day, back in the olden days, I had mine hot/warm in the spring, fall and winter, and sometimes, chilled in the summer.

    Aiya, you're not newbie lar ... You're too humble.

  6. Hey Jenny,

    I have not tried them with sago seeds. Whenever I have my red bean soup at home, I must wait for it to cool and chill it in the refrigerator before I help myself to it.


    Hey Wendy,

    I can't remember how long I cooked the beans.. Haha I just leave it there to cook and check back on it every now and then.

    Haha, I know what you mean. There was once I cooked the beans until the skin separated from the interior. Would prefer my beans to be softened but still retain its bean form, but the soup has to be sandy enough. The amount of beans used in this recipe is a quite a lot so the soup is rather sandy even though the beans have not gone mushy.


    Hey Shirley,

    Thanks alot!


    Hey HHB,

    Wow, you have a pandan plant. That sounds cool! I have contemplated of growing some plants too, maybe herbs so that I can use them when I need to. However, the thought of taking care of them makes me rethink the idea.

    Pandan leaves certainly work very well in red bean soups.


    Hey Edith,

    Thanks. yup time to recruit ppl liao.


    Hey Pei-Lin,

    I will try addding in lotus buds next time. Restaurants like to add it to their red bean soup.

  7. Bakertan, I showed your blog to my elder kid, and he was really impressed :)
    Besides pandan, I have rosemary, mint, dill, chilli (no fruits yet) and cherry tomatoes that bear fruits that were no bigger than blueberries, I grow my herbs at the corridor. Going to plant coriander and spring onions too. Yes, they need tender loving care, so people like me who has got nothing better to do can afford the time ;)

  8. I like red bean soup but I just couldn't cook a nice one. I did add in pandan leave and orange peel but I still prefer my parent one.

  9. Looks great! A crowd-pleasing classic Singapore chinese dessert

  10. This looks good Bakertan! Even though the steps sounds easy, but I know it's not easy. Practice does make perfect. Just like my attempt with Tau Suan. Your red bean 糖水 looks really good. I would like to have a bowl too! I'll see if there is any leftover, I would gladly help myself to one bowl. Heehee...

  11. I like red bean soup and yours looks good with the beans intact and still soft. I use a crockpot to cook the beans and they come out nice and soft too.

  12. I love this! I usually cook green bean soup coz it's more "cooling" than red beans, but I love red beans soup too. I like some sago in it for crunch. Yours looks perfect. You're not just a good baker, you're a good cook too ;)

  13. Heyyy Bakertan!!

    Haha you like red bean soup too. I am totally in love with anything red bean. Anyway, I remember the first time I made red bean soup, I was pressed for time, so I just put the beans inside the rice cooker and filled it with water and then cook. Turned out superb!

    Took me like 2.5hrs for the beans to be soft but not overly mushy and the good thing is you don't have to stand by the pot and keep stirring. The cooker does the work for you. Just have to check back maybe every hour, stir and add your rock sugar :))

  14. hey HHB,

    feel so honoured that you showed my blog to your elder kid =] thanks! Cherry tomato is good stuff, haha. I wish I have a mini garden one day with plants like yours. I am not too greedy..just a few plants will suffice. they will come in handy for cooking, haha


    Hey Grace,

    Food prepared by our parents are always the best sometimes. Very hard to make it better than them.


    Hi Clare,

    thanks alot for the compliment =]


    hey Jane,

    Ya lor, practice does make perfect. Thanks! I try to make extra just for you.


    Hi Busygran,

    thanks =] my mum likes to use crockpot too. i find it too slow, haha. takes ages to cook the red beans.


    Hi Wiffy,

    Thanks! I have'nt tried adding sago to red bean soup. Sounds new to me. I am really a noob at cooking, trust me .. haha


    Hi Sheryl,

    Red bean soup rulez man. I have'nt tried using the rice cooker. sounds like a good idea and there will be much less evaporation as compared to using a pot.


Dear readers, thanks for visiting my humble little blog. Feel free to leave a message so that I can learn and be a better baker. Its a great feeling to share our culinary experience and adventures in the kitchen.

Thank you and have a nice day! Cheers =]

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