Azuki Bean Paste (with skins)
Sweet bean paste comes in two types: either tsubuan, which contains pieces of azuki bean skin, or finely pureed koshian.
Photographed by Takeharu HIOKI
Calorie count is for full recipe.
Excludes time spent cooling after kneading together the bean paste.
- 300 g azuki beans
- 300 g granulated sugar
- Salt, a pinch
Place the azuki beans in a strainer and briefly rinse just enough to get rid of any dust or debris, making sure not to rub them together too hard.
In a thick-walled pot, combine the rinsed beans and 600 ml of water. Cover and heat over medium-high heat. When it comes to a boil, remove lid and add 200 ml of water, and continue to boil uncovered.
Bring the pot to a boil again and boil over medium-high heat for about 2 min, then remove from heat. Strain and briefly rinse the beans.
Repeat once more: bring the beans and 800 ml of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 10-15 min, continuing to add small amounts of water whenever it comes to a boil.
When the creases in the beans disappear, remove from heat. Strain and briefly rinse the beans.
Compared to uncooked azuki beans, these should have swollen to about 50% larger than when they are dry.
Once again, bring the beans and 800 ml of water to a boil, covered, over medium-high heat. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low (adjust the temperature as needed: the beans should only be moving slightly) and boil for 30-40 min.
Keep the water level high enough that the beans are always covered; you will probably need to remove the lid 3 times or so to check. If the water level is getting low, add more water immediately. Be sure not to stir the beans as they cook.
When the beans begin to smell good, scoop up a small amount of the beans and mash them with a spoon; they are fully cooked if they can be crushed with no resistance. Be sure not to overcook the beans, because they will fall apart. You can also test the beans by eating a small amount (1 tsp or so).
To prevent the beans from moving, cover them with a layer of waxed paper, then cover the pot with a lid and simmer at the lowest heat setting possible for 30-40 min, taking care not to overcook them. Do not add any extra water during this step.
Place a strainer on top of a bowl and line the strainer with cheesecloth. When the azuki beans have softened, gently transfer them to the cheesecloth and gently pour water over top. This will help remove any other unwanted compounds from the beans while cooling them.
Lift the beans out of the strainer, using the cheesecloth, and very gently squeeze out any excess water.
Transfer the beans to a pot and add the granulated sugar, then heat over medium-high heat. Use a wooden spatula to knead it together, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. Add a pinch of salt and mix in.
The paste will firm somewhat upon cooling, so cook until slightly softer than the desired firmness, then remove from heat.
Use a spatula to scoop up the paste and transfer to a tray to let cool. If you are making firmer paste, it can be more effective to split it into smaller portions and make little mounds to let cool.
Storing azuki bean paste:
When the bean paste cools, transfer it to a food storage bag and flatten out. It will keep in the freezer for up to 3 weeks. The day before you plan to use it, transfer the bag to your refrigerator to let it thaw.
Tools for making azuki bean paste:
* A pot with rounded base edges
When kneading together the paste, it's better to use a pot that has rounded edges at the base, like the pots traditionally used for Japanese cooking, rather than one with sharp corners.
* A wooden or silicone spatula
Used for kneading together the paste. For wooden spatulas, it's best to use ones with large, rounded heads and long handles. When scraping paste off the inside walls of the pot, a heat-resistant silicone spatula can be very convenient.
* A confectionery spatula
When cutting apart azuki bean paste, dough, or other materials for Japanese sweets, a thin, sharp spatula works very well. A pastry cutter or knife will also work if you don't have one available.
When straining or squeezing out boiled azuki beans, paper towels will often tear. Choose cheesecloth that will let plenty of water through. A square about 60 cm on each side will work nicely.
Spreading azuki bean paste out on one of these will help it cool more effectively. If you don't have one, you can use a flat plate instead.