It is nearing December and the weather has been chilly in Singapore lately so today I made sweet red bean soup to keep me as warm as toast even though it’s windy and cold outside :). Red bean soup (紅豆汤 hóng dòu tāng) is an all time classic Chinese dessert soup.
This post was first published on Dec 4, 2015 and now updated on 18/11/16 with improved recipe and photos.
The basic ingredients for this red bean soup recipe are red beans (also known as adzuki beans), dried tangerine peel and rock sugar. For this recipe, I added ginkgo nuts and sago for extra texture to the soup. If you have pandan leaves, tie a few into a knot and throw them into the soup pot as well to add some fragrance.
Related post: How to Cook Sago
Other variations of this soup include the addition of ingredients like lotus seeds, red dates, dried longan, glutinous rice balls and coconut milk. If you’re using coconut milk, consume the red bean soup as soon as you can as it will not stay fresh nor keep well for long. Substitute with low-fat coconut milk for a healthier option.
Compared to green beans, red beans take a longer time to cook and soften. Soak the beans overnight in water to shorten the cooking process and prevent flatulence.
From my observation, the quality of the beans you use will also affect the length of the cooking time. An old batch of red beans that I bought took a much longer time to cook compared to a newer purchase. Try not to keep raw beans for long periods of time as it will affect their quality.
Health benefits of Red Beans
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, red beans is believed to reduce fluid retention, alleviate oedema, promote diuresis, eliminate skin heat and toxins, and help with weight loss. Consumption of ginkgo nuts treat coughs and fluid discharges, alleviate asthma and helps to preserve the functions of the brain.
Related recipe: Green Bean Soup
Dried Tangerine Peel
Dried tangerine peel (called chen pi) is a warming ingredient high in antioxidants and helps with indigestion, reduces nausea and treats diarrhea. Tea made from dried tangerine peels has many health benefits and one that I particularly like is that it helps to alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women.
Dried tangerine peels add a citrusy flavor and scent to the soup. Try not to omit this ingredient as it really does give the soup a lovely aroma but do not add too many pieces of it. The first time I made this, I added about 5-6 pieces and it made the soup terribly bitter. My daughter took a sip and cringed. So, lesson learnt. One piece is sufficient. A little goes a long way. If you think you need more, add another piece later only after you’ve tasted the soup.
Some like this soup with a thick consistency while others prefer it thinner. I am personally partial to the thicker version. To thicken the red bean soup, you can either use a blender to blend the softened beans or manually mash them with the back of a spoon.
Delicious Red Bean Ideas:
1. Leftovers of this sweet soup can be freezed up and made into delicious popsicles.
2. Serve the red bean soup with a scoop of ice-cream for a refreshing and yummy treat!
- 1 cup red beans - soaked overnight
- 1 piece dried tangerine peel - soaked for 10 - 15 minutes till soft
- 100 g rock sugar - or to taste (may be substituted with brown sugar)
- 6 cups water
- ⅓ cup small sago
- Optional Ingredients
- 60 g vacuumed packed ginkgo nuts
- 4 pandan leaves - washed, trim off dry ends and tie into a knot
- To cook sago: Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Pour in sago seeds and let it simmer for around 5 minutes. Turn off heat and keep the pot covered for about 10 - 15 minutes. Let the remaining heat finish cooking the sago until it is all translucent and gelatinous. Once fully cooked, rinse the sago to remove any residual starch. Keep sago pearls submerged in some water (to prevent sticking) until ready to use in your dessert.
- Discard the soaking water for the beans and rinse. Scrape off the white pith from the inside of the softened dried tangerine peel with the back of a spoon and rinse. This is to reduce its bitterness.
- Put in the red beans, pandan leaves, dried tangerine peel and water into a medium sized soup pot. Bring to a boil and let it remain boiling for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer for about 1.5 to 2 hours or until the red beans are broken and soft. Remove the pandan leaves and dried tangerine peel.
- When the beans have softened and opened up, mash half (or all if you prefer) the red beans with the back of a spoon in a strainer placed over a bowl. Ladle up some soup and pour it through the strainer to let any remaining mashed beans return to the soup. Transfer the strained mixture back into the soup pot and discard the empty husks in the strainer. Alternatively, use a hand-held blender to blend till the beans are to your desired consistency. You may also transfer to a blender to blend and pour back the blended mixture back into the pot. Add an additional 1 cup of water or as needed if you find that the soup is too thick.
- Add the ginkgo nuts and cook for about 10 minutes. Add rock sugar and stir over medium heat till it dissolves. Add sago pearls if using. Turn off heat and serve.