This is an all-time classic Chinese dessert which anyone can prepare at home. Once I was old enough to handle a pot over a hot stove, my mother taught me to make this, and it remains one of our family favourites.
Though you can easily enjoy sweet red bean soup at local dessert outlets, or the fine, elaborate version prepared by Chinese restaurants, you might sometimes be left wanting – either too little beans, too watery, too starchy or too sweet.
Which is why preparing this at home works out so well, because you can adjust proportions, sweetness and consistency to your liking. I especially enjoy this dessert when cooked to a silky smooth, slightly thick (but not too starchy) consistency. This soup’s flavour is significantly enhanced when cooked with dried tangerine peel – the peel’s distinct, slightly bitter-sweet citrus taste is refreshing, and offsets the sharp sweetness of sugar.
Nutritionally, there are many benefits to consuming red beans and lotus seeds. Red beans are a rich source of carbohydrates, protein, and dietary fibre and contain significant amounts of essential minerals, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
In traditional Chinese medicine, red beans consumption promotes diuresis, clears heat, and rids the body of toxins. Lotus seeds are beneficial for the kidneys, help to improve the health of the spleen, strengthen the digestive process and alleviate diarrhea. It is also used to treat conditions of insomnia and restlessness due to its calming and sedative properties. Dried tangerine peel is a healthy source of bioflavonoids, helps improve digestion and reduce infections.
This soup is nutritious, and easy to have any time of day! I hope you’ll try it real soon!
This recipe makes 3 to 4 servings.
SWEET RED BEAN SOUP WITH LOTUS SEEDS RECIPE
1 cup Red Beans
15 Dried Lotus Seeds
1 piece Dried Tangerine Peel
1 Screwpine Leaf, tied into a knot (optional)
4 – 5 tbsp Brown Sugar, or to taste
1 – 2 tbsp Fine Glutinous Rice Flour in equal parts of water,
for thickening to your desired consistency
Some Coconut Milk, for drizzling over soup
1. Wash red beans in several rinses of water, till water runs clear of dirt and grit. Put into a pot, fill with water to a height equivalent to the length of your index finger, roughly 6 cm, above the beans. Bring to a boil, and let par-boil for 15 mins. Turn off heat, cover with lid and let sit for half an hour, to let hot water soften the tough bean husks.
2. Meanwhile, soak dried tangerine peel in water for 15 mins (no longer than necessary) or till soft. Using the blunt end of a small knife, scrape off the pith on the inside of the peel. Wash clean. Wash lotus seeds and screwpine leaf (if using).
3. Bring the pot of red beans back to a boil, add washed tangerine peel, lotus seeds and half of the brown sugar. Reduce to medium heat, let simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or till beans are soft. Skim scum off the surface as it forms. Add water if liquid reduces too much. When beans are soft and cracked open, do a taste test and add sugar to your desired sweetness. Thicken as per step (5). Turn off heat, serve hot or warm in serving bowls, drizzled with some coconut milk, if desired.
4. For a more refined version (which is the way I enjoy it best), when the beans are soft and cracked open, place a sieve over the pot of sweet soup. Scoop up beans (leave lotus seeds intact in the soup pot) into the sieve, mash with the back of a spoon, and pour soup through the sieve to ‘wash’ the mashed flesh into the soup, leaving the husks in the sieve. Discard the husks. Repeat this until all the beans are husked. Or, if you like, you can leave some portion of the beans unmashed, to add texture to the soup.
5. To thicken the soup slightly, stir the glutinous rice flour solution into the soup, little by little, letting the heat cook through before adding more. Stop when desired consistency is reached. Dish out into serving bowls, drizzled with some coconut milk, if desired.