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What is Red Bean Paste?

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One of the popular flavours used in oriental cooking is red bean paste; most commonly, this paste is sweetened and used within sweet treats, puddings and oriental buns as a filling. Although it is used in many recipes, you may not know much about this distinctive ingredient, so our guide will give you the information you need to know about red bean paste!

What is Red Bean Paste?

Red bean paste is otherwise known as red bean jam, adzuki bean paste or simply, anko. It is, unsurprisingly, a paste made from red (or adzuki) beans, commonly used in Chinese and Japanese cooking. The jam is typically a naturally deep red colour, although some forms of the paste will be white or black, depending on the processes used and whether the husk was removed or not. It is often sweetened during the cooking process, making it suitable for sweet dishes. However, it can also be used unsweetened in savoury meals and snacks.

What Does Red Bean Paste Taste Like?

Although incredibly unique in flavour, it has been compared to the taste of sweet potato with added sugar, as well as creamy and earthy notes.

How is Red Bean Paste Made?

There are typically two forms of red bean paste, one which is smooth and one which is rougher in texture. The smooth paste will have had the husk removed before cooking, and will typically be a white colour with a creamy texture – if you buy red bean paste in jars, it will usually be of the smooth variety. The rougher paste, in contrast, will contain the husk and is often simply homemade.

The red bean paste is made by boiling adzuki beans (with or without the husk) until soft and then mashing the cooked product into the required consistency. For sweet dishes, the sugar will be added whilst the mixture is still warm. For a smooth consistency, the paste is also passed through a sieve to remove any rough textures.

Is Red Bean Paste Healthy?

Red bean paste often has a high sugar content, which is not overly healthy. However, the beans themselves are a fantastic source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, which are good for the body. If eaten in moderation, dishes and sweets containing red bean paste can be a part of a healthy balanced diet.

How is Red Bean Paste Eaten?

Typically, today red bean paste can be found as a filling to many sweet treats, cakes and buns or as an addition to shaved ice or ice cream. However, it hasn't always been that way; during the Kamakura period (1185-1333) cooks would add salt to the bean paste, rather than sugar, creating only savoury dishes. It wasn’t until when the Edo era (1603-1868) arrived that the domestic manufacturing of sugar began to grow. This was when the salt was replaced with a much more enjoyable, sugary alternative. It was during this time that red bean paste was considered an item of absolute luxury and was only permitted to be eaten by the noblest of men and women. Today, it is widely enjoyed across not only Asia but also in the UK. Have you ever tried red bean paste? Why not order one of our delicious oriental buns containing the sweet paste today?

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