If there is any comfort food that makes you homesick and nostalgic, then Cantonese style red bean soup with mandarin peel is definitely right on top of my list. Even though is called soup, but it is actually a sweet dessert drink. Different country has different version of the red bean soup, and the key ingredient is of course red bean, also known as Azuki beans. Chinese version of the red bean soup is watery and thinner than the Japanese oshiruko version which is like a thick paste, often served with fresh fruit.
Red bean soup is a popular dessert drink in Malaysia, it can be served hot or cold. I usually prefer it hot, especially during winter. Nothing beat chillaxing at home on a cold winter day, with my favorite DVD and a nice big bowl of hot red bean soup, and perhaps a few butter cookies on the side for the ultimate indulgence.
Using mandarin peel in the red bean soup is a recipe that has been handed down from generations to generations. It adds a nice citrus flavour to the drink and gives it a nice tang to it. In Malaysia, mandarins are hard to come by, usually only available during Chinese New Year, imported from China. That's why we usually will sun dry the mandarin peels, which will still be good for months to come. The sun dried mandarin peel is simply a nice addition to the red bean soup.
But since I am in Australia and mandarin is widely available almost all year round, so fresh mandarin peels are the way to go and save me from sun drying them. I actually prefer fresh peel in the soup which releases more citrus aroma in the soup and is much softer and less zesty to chew on. Compared to the sun dried one which can be still tough even after boiling and less flavour for keeping too long.
Red bean soup is very easy to make. As the old fashioned traditional way of Chinese cooking, all ingredients are measured in approximation by a handful, a pinch, a palm full of water etc. So everything is adjusted according to personal taste during the cooking process.
But this time I have decided to measure up all my ingredients, at least it will be the basic guide on how to make the red bean soup for those who never had this soup before and would like to give the recipe a try. Seriously, is a no brainer, make sure you make a big pot of it and save it for the late night snack craving.
1 cup of red beans (washed)
½ mandarin peel/skin (sun dry them is optional)
2 ltr water
1 cup of sugar
1. Bring the water to boil in a big pot, and add red beans.
2. Reduce to simmer for 30 mins, then add mandarin peel.
3. Continue to simmer for another hour (the longer the better), until the water is reduced by half, and all the red beans are cooked and soft.
4. Add the sugar and stir well.
5. Serve hot immediately.
The red bean soup will go well with biscuits, cake, or the traditionally chinese fried doughnut (油條) or anything that is dunk-able. I made some banana cake to go with the red bean soup and served in my favorite TOTORO bowl and plate, the heartwarming combination really shouts out "procrastinating" on a chilled rainy weekend.