Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Red Beans and Rice [Balls]

First things first - thanks to everyone who left me a comment on my last post. My blog was very happy on this first blogiversary!! After 1 year, I'm not yet sick of blogging so here goes - onto year 2!!

Red Beans and Rice [balls]... yes! But since I'm not from the South, and in fact from a Chinese mother - this is dessert! Red bean soup is very often served after a Chinese meal as a "something sweet". It's a hot, slightly sweet soup and typically has tapioca balls or perhaps boiled peanuts or lotus seeds mixed in. It's certainly not what you might think of when someone says dessert. But someone raised on these flavors finds it very comforting and cozy in the tummy. Especially during the winter.

Perhaps the highest fiber count of any dessert out there?
Unless you eat shredded wheat for dessert

Well, it's winter! And while it's way too warm in California for winter (umm, high 60°s - I agree it's nice, but it's just WRONG!) goshdarnit I'm making red bean soup!! I decided to make this for dessert on Chinese New Year day.

Any self-respecting Chinese person knows what we're getting at here...

I have one vivid memory of my Dad's mother trying this soup while we were dining out one time. She is of course, my Caucasian grandmother, and absolutely NOT from California. She lived in New Hampshire practically her entire life - certainly not the most culturally diverse state in our nation. I watched her take a spoonful of the soup and before even chewing, really tasting it or even putting her head back up, she spit it out! I guess it might be an acquired taste...

Ok so not what most people would think of as a
yummy dessert - but believe me, it's sweet!

Oh and a quick funny story about just HOW little New Hampshire knew about Chinese food when I was growing up? We went out to try this Chinese place in the next town over from Dad's hometown. I already knew it was a bit odd that there were no chopsticks on the tables. But after we got our order of chow mein - I knew we were far, far away from San Francisco. Instead of real chow mein noodles which are soft and made of eggs and flour - it was those crispy cracker like noodles you eat by the handful or sprinkle on salads!! UNREAL!! I wanted to sue this restaurant for fraudulent misrepresentation of Chinese cuisine!!

Before cooking and after. My favorite part: tapioca and rice balls!

To do it the traditional way means cooking the beans slowly for 8-9 hours, preferably after soaking them overnight. But I never have the patience for that. So I use my trusty pressure cooker! If I'm out of the Asian tapioca/sago I just use some of my Kraft Minute Tapioca. But the rice balls cannot be replaced! They are my favorite part. In fact, I sorta make red bean soup just to eat rice balls!

Equal parts? Who me??

Debbie's mom actually taught me to make red bean soup but not in the form I'm showing here. In the summer, it quickly turns into a hot weather dessert. Just chill the red beans, top with tapioca and rice balls, shave some ice over it, pour on the condensed milk... and OOoooohhhhh. I can't tell you how good it is!

Sweetened condensed milk is so heavenly. I swear I could drink a can!

It's a vague recipe that you really make to your liking. I just do a little *add*taste*add*taste* until it's right.

The [vague] way I do it:

Soak a 12 oz. package of red beans overnight (tho it "works" without doing that). Cover the beans with about 3 times as much water and put on a medium-heat in a pressure cooker for about 40 minutes. Wait for the pressure to leave the pot and check the progress of the beans. They should be starting to get soft and losing their skins. Add sugar to taste (I might add about 1 cup) noting that it'll get a bit sweeter as it sits (if yours will) in the fridge. Cook in the pressure cooker for another 20-30 minutes. Check if the soup is to your liking. I like to boil it a bit with the lid off and then thicken with a little cornstarch mixed with water.

For the tapioca and rice balls I cook them in boiling water for about 5-10 minutes (the rice balls take less time than the tapioca) then put them in ice water to cool them down - this make them chewy. Stir a couple spoons of tapioca and rice balls with a small bowl of the soup. Nothing is right or wrong here! You could stop here or top it with a generous pour of sweetened condensed milk -- which will obviously make it sweeter yet.

My mouth seriously waters looking at this!


  1. Working hard I see :)

    I am fond of the southern style, especially with polish sausage mixed in. Not pretty but so tasty.

  2. And I dry heave looking at it.

    No offense to you or your tremendous cooking skills.

    But you know how I feel about tapioca.


  3. YUM. Doesn't this make you sooo happy and grateful to be Chinese? I mean, red bean and rice balls is probably one of my favorite things ever. Just looking at your pictures is making me salivate! man, I miss being home...i miss asian cooking! haha