In this recipe, you will learn how to make red bean paste (豆沙 dou sha – “doh shah”, literally “bean sand”), a common filling for many Chinese sweets I will be featuring in the future! And of course also how to make zongzi, the most common food eaten during the Duanwu Festival!
Please see this post I wrote yesterday, in order to understand a lot more about zongzi and the Duanwu Festival! 🙂
My recipes are adapted from Omnivore’s Cookbook, so please see their blog for more recipes! 🙂
First, the recipe for the red bean paste. This is really quite easy to make in a pressure cooker.
200 grams dried red beans or azuki beans
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (I used 3/4, so it was sweet, but the finished zongzi very only mildly sweet. If you like it sweeter, use 1 cup instead. My family prefers most desserts less sweet.)
2 tbsp butter (optional)
1. Wash the red beans and soak in cold water overnight. If you do not have time to soak, that’s fine, just see intructions below.
2. Drain beans and add 3 cups water with the beans to a pressure cooker. Cover and put over high heat, bring to pressure (it will become really loud). Then lower the heat to medium and cook for 20-30 minutes, depending on how strong your pressure cooker is. I cooked 20 minutes, and they were soft enough to mash with finger, but still a bit hard for red bean paste. Next time I will try 30 minutes. After time is up, turn off the heat and leave until the pressure is released. Basically you cannot hear any noise from the pressure cooker at all anymore. To check, stand far away as possible and use a chopstick to slightly move the pressure whistle. If only a tiny amount or no amount of steam and noise come out, it is ready. If a tiny amount remains, keep pushing the whistle gently to release all the steam. Be very careful! Finally open the cooker and take out a bean to mash with your finger. Make sure it is cool before mashing! If it mashes and is soft, it is ready. If not, you could simmer it longer or even pressure cook it longer.
If you didn’t soak the beans, you should cook longer, probably over 30 minutes.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you must simmer them in a pot until soft and mashable. This will take over an hour. Add to a pot with water and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Check the beans after an hour of simmering and if not soft, continue simmering. Also, check every 15 minutes or so to make sure the water did not evaporate. Add more water so water covers the red beans.
3. After cooking, stir the beans. Make sure there is still water. It should be at least the height of the beans. If there is too much water, that’s okay, as we will be boiling it so the water will evaporate. Now, you have two choices, chunky red bean paste or smooth. Chunky is a lot easier and you don’t have to clean a blender. But some people like smooth, so you can do that too.
First, the instructions for chunky red bean paste.
4. Use a spatula to mash the beans against the side of the pot. They don’t have to be totally mashed yet, but still mash them.
5. Put over medium high heat and bring to a boil, constantly stirring. Stirring will also mash the beans.
6. Add the sugar and stir. Add butter now if using. As sugar melts, there will be more liquid. Keep stirring.
7. Now stir just a couple minutes until it’s thick enough. To check, use the spatula and scrape the bottom. This will separate the red bean paste. Count to 2 seconds. If the line has disappeared before 2 seconds, it is not ready. If it disappears at 2 seconds, it is ready.
8. Turn off the heat immediately and scrape out into a bowl or container. As it cools, it quickly becomes firmer. Let cool. When it has cooled mostly, you can cover it and store in the fridge.
Now, for the smooth paste.
4. Add beans and liquid to a blender. Blend until very smooth.
5. Now heat a pan, nonstick is obviously best, and add the pureed beans, sugar, and butter. Butter isn’t optional for the smooth paste even though it’s optional for the chunky one.
6. Stir well so everything combines. The sugar will make the paste much thinner as it melts.
7. This step is called stir-frying the red bean paste. Stir-fry over medium to medium-high heat constantly stirring until it is thick enough. It will become one mass when it’s thick.
8. (same as step 8 for the chunky one) Turn off the heat immediately and scrape out into a bowl or container. As it cools, it quickly becomes firmer. Let cool. When it has cooled mostly, you can cover it and store in the fridge.
Now, we have the recipe for zongzi!
This recipe makes about 12 zongzi. I doubled it and cooked it in 2 batches.
400 grams white glutinous rice
1/2 batch of the red bean paste made above
12 large (8 cm+ width) zongzi leaves like I used, or 24 smaller ones, or 36 extremely small ones like the ones the Omnivore’s Cookbook used
1. Put glutinous rice in a bowl, add water to cover by a couple inches, stir well with your hand in a circular motion until the water is opaque (white and not see-through). Drain into a larger bowl and use it to water your garden or wash your pots after cooking. You can repeat this one more time if you like. Don’t wash until it’s clear. That’ll never ever ever ever ever happen with glutinous rice 🙂
2. Cover glutinous rice with water by a couple inches. Soak overnight.
3. Meanwhile, if they are dried, soak the zongzi leaves overnight also. It might be hard to soak since the large ones are extremely large. I had to soften them a little, then fold in half to soak. This could cause ripping though, so be careful. Maybe it’s okay if you don’t soak too. See the next step.
4. The next day, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the zongzi leaves. Bring back to a boil. If dried, boil 5 minutes. If you forgot to soak, maybe 10 minutes. If fresh, 2 minutes should be enough.
5. Take out the leaves to a large plate and let cool.
6. Now, please see the Omnivore’s Cookbook recipe for the video on how to wrap zongzi. If you have any questions, you can comment below.
7. Once all wrapped, take out your pressure cooker and put all the zongzi in. Add water to cover all the zongzi. If your cooker is too small, you may need multiple batches. Do not fill your cooker more than 2/3 because it might be dangerous if too much is inside. Now cover and put over high heat, bring to pressure (very loud). Then lower heat to medium and cook 20-30 minutes. After time is up, turn off the heat and leave until the pressure is released. Basically you cannot hear any noise from the pressure cooker at all anymore. To check, stand far away as possible and use a chopstick to slightly move the pressure whistle. If only a tiny amount or no amount of steam and noise come out, it is ready. If a tiny amount remains, keep pushing the whistle gently to release all the steam. Be very careful! Finally open the cooker and see the zongzi! Yay! Take out all the zongzi and you can start eating!
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, it is recommended to add zongzi to a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 3 hours. However, 25 min in the pressure cooker was fine for me as it made the rice into a cake. And the red beans could be cooked in 1 hour over the stove, 20 minutes in the pressure cooker. So maybe it does not need all the 3 hours to cook. I haven’t tried the non-pressure cooker method though, so I don’t really know the correct cooking time.
To eat zongzi, unwrap carefully and eat! You can sprinkle with sugar or honey if you want it more sweet. Don’t eat the leaf, hehe. As mentioned in my last post, Chinese joke is that a foreigner said “Zongzi are really tasty! But the outer leaf gets stuck in your teeth. Thankfully, they provide floss for you too!” (If you don’t get it, the floss is the string used to tie the zongzi.) LOL
Enjoy eating zongzi! Have a healthy Duanwu Festival!
My zongzi-wrapping isn’t the best, hehe. I chose the 3 best ones I made. The inside of the zongzi does not look as beautiful in pictures, so I did not upload any of them 🙂