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What Is Red Bean Soup?

By Lakshmi Sandhana
Updated May 17, 2024
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Red bean soup is made out of red azuki beans and is very popular Cantonese dessert. Usually eaten as an after-dinner treat, this sweet soup can be served either hot or chilled. Also consumed as a snack, the vibrant color of red bean soup is favored by the Chinese because it stands for luck and happiness. Traditionally, this soup is served plain, but fancier versions come with sago, longan seeds, and glutinous rice balls.

Having a delicious texture and smooth flavor, this soup is made for many special occasions such as the Chinese New Year. It is also a popular dish at events like birthdays and weddings. It's a fresh-tasting soup that is perfect as a summer dish too. The red azuki beans are thought to be a warming type of food, and when boiled, they become quite mushy.

To make the red bean soup, cooks soak the red azuki beans overnight to soften them. Before use, they drain the beans and soak them along with some dried lotus seeds. Fresh orange or dried tangerine peel and brown sugar are the other ingredients. The cook boils water along with the tangerine peel for a while and adds the lotus seeds and beans. The mixture simmers for around an hour or more until the beans become very soft.

At this stage, the cook adds sugar and stirs it until it thoroughly dissolves. If the red bean soup is too thick, the cook adds boiling water to it until it becomes thinner. They remove the tangerine peel before serving the soup. Instead of brown sugar, they may also use rock sugar or white sugar. The dried tangerine peel gives the soup an exotic citrus tang, while the lotus seeds offer both texture and color contrast.

Some cooks creatively use leftover red bean soup to make ice pops by freezing it. A few add glutinous rice or tapioca balls to the dessert or other ingredients like lily bulbs and lotus roots. Adding a tablespoon of vanilla also gives the red bean soup a really lovely taste. Cooks may also add a little bit of coconut cream before serving the soup for more fragrance and added taste.

The Japanese crush the azuki beans when they make this soup and call it shiruko. Shiruko could also have red bean paste instead of crushed beans and is served with mochi, chestnuts, and dumplings. Koreans call this soup patjuk and consume it with rice flour balls.

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Discussion Comments

By fBoyle — On Sep 17, 2013

I think azuki beans are a favorite ingredient in Asian desserts, I've seen it in so many recipes. I've seen pastries filled with azuki bean paste. It's also used as a topping for shaved ice desserts all over Asia.

I've never had red bean soup. The concept of eating beans for dessert seems kind of odd to me but I'll definitely give it a try if I spot it on the menu at a Chinese restaurant.

By stoneMason — On Sep 16, 2013

@burcinc-- Do you have yours hot or chilled?

I personally like mine chilled. In the summer, I put ice in cold red bean soup and top it with glutinous rice. Yummy!

By burcinc — On Sep 16, 2013

I really like red bean soup. It's so easy to make and it always turns out good. I don't like making foods or desserts that require a lot of steps so this dessert is perfect for me.

The first time I made it at home, I did not put any orange or tangerine peel. The second time around, I put orange peels in it and wow, it made such a difference. I realized after my second try that orange peel is a must have ingredient in this simple dessert.

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