I know the idea of red bean in a dessert form is weird, especially if this is the first time you are hearing this seemingly utter non-sense creation. I first had in when I was in middle school on a scorching hot summer day of Yangon. Honestly, I felt quit uneasy when my aunt handed to me a big cup of red bean gloop stirred with ice cubes. But, once I took a bite there was no turning back. The combination of natural sweetness and the earthiness of the red bean when reincarnated in a dessert form, was uniquely addicting.
Since then, I have become a complete sweet red bean junkie. Right now, I still make this red bean soup regularly, although the way I eat and I make the stuff has diverged quite a bit from how my aunt used to make. I started to put dried mandrain orange peel a while back because there is something so festive about subtle citrus, especially if I am making this for Lunar New Year. If you are feeling to a tad bit extra, head to your local Asian supermarkets and stock up dried longan berries and lotus seeds. Dried longan berries have the most floral note compared to all other dried fruits I have ever tasted. They are delicious! You will find reasons to put these sweet nuggets everywhere and anywhere, in addition to using in this red bean soup. Dried lotus seeds weirdly look like the mouth of a calamari. They taste quite neutral, honestly. But, I have been told that they are full of restorative properties. Not sure how true the statement is but sometimes, in life, if you believe strong enough, you can somehow be rewarded with the placebo effect. Not a too shabby deal if you ask me.
My aunt would only serve this red bean soup cold, and it make sense when I was living in humid tropic weather of Yangon. But, in the United States where there actually exists distinct seasonality, I eat accordingly. In summer, I would slather the dark rubied soup either on top of hard cold vanilla ice-cream or a thick Greek yoghurt. In fall, I simmer the soup until quite thick with a bit of corn starch and use it as a pie filing. In winter, I want curl with under my down comforter with a piping hot bowl of red bean soup, while watching television. In spring, when the temperature is temperate, I make a big loaf of red bean babka and eat it on the porch with a strong cup of coffee. Finally, I would like to make a point that eating and cooking does not have to be restrained to how one is brought up. Eat things that you like and how you like them. Authenticity is a beautiful diamond-laced prison.
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2 cups of dried red beans
200 g of rock sugar
1 cup of dried longan berries
1 cup of dried lotus seeds
1 piece of dried mandarin orange peel
2 tsps. of baking soda
1 tsp of salt
Soak dried red beans with 6 cups of water and 2 tsps. of baking soda for at least 8 hours or overnight. They are sufficiently soaked when you can bite into them without breaking your front teeth.
Throw away the soaking liquid. In a medium pot, put in your soaked red beans, along with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer at a very low heat covered for 2 hours. It is imperative that you don’t open the lid. Otherwise, the beans will not soften well.
After 2 hours, open the lid to check water. If the bean mixture looks like drying out, put 2 more cups of water. Then, put in your dried lotus seeds, dried mandarin orange peel and longan berries. Simmer for another 1 hour. At this point, be sure to check every 15 minutes and refill water if necessary.
After 1 hour, put in rock sugar, and cook for another 15 minutes or so until all sugar dissolves. Adjust the thickness of the soup accordingly. If you enjoy thicker soup, let the soup evaporate by simmering. If you want thinner, add more water.
There are many ways to serve this. The simplest way is to serve it hot. But, you can also slather the hot red ruby juice on top of ice-cream, or yoghurt. In summer, you can make it into a cooling drink by blending with some ice.