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Experimenting in the kitchen...

December 30th, 2005 (11:42 pm)

current mood: curious

It must be the year for sweets or something because, for some reason, I've decided to try and make zenzai (red bean soup) for New Years... Normally the female sibling unit makes this and I've never done it before although I know the basic idea of how to make it. I guess this is one of those recipes that gets passed around by word of mouth or something since I'm not finding any written record for it as we make it here. Checking on the 'net as well, I found the recipes to be a bit different in cooking, so I decided to try one of those out. I have a regular batch of beans on the overnight soak (how we normally do it), but the 'net recipes didn't call for this step, so that one'll be ready one day earlier. :P

The recipe:

For 2 people:
100 g azuki beans
80 g sugar
pinch salt
2 mochi pieces

- Wash the beans (discard any that float) and put them in a pot with lots of water (3-4 inches above beans). Bring to a boil (med to high heat). Discard water. This is to get rid of... the lye? (if you don't do this, it'll turn out very bitter). Repeat boiling of beans and discarding water 3-4 times.
- After getting rid of the water from the last boil above, add lots of cold water (enough for ~2 hours of low heat cooking) and bring to a boil on low heat. Cook beans for 1-1.5 hours. (Beans should crush easily between the fingers) Remove from heat. Ladle off excess liquid from beans to a separate pot, leaving perhaps 1.5" of liquid above the beans (enough 30+ mins of simmering).
- Add the sugar and salt to the beans and gently boil for ~20-30 mins. If you run low on liquid, add more from what was set aside or add a little water if no excess liquid is available.
- Let sit overnight to let flavour develop but if you really want, it can be eaten right away as well.

- Grill mochi on a rack over the stove burner (if you don't have a grill, you could improvise with a cooling rack if you have an old, dying one) until it puffs up charring it slightly. (If you can't get much distance from the burner and are charring the mochi a bit too much, nuke the mochi in the microwave on med-high until it "puffs" aka spills its guts).*

Serve zenzai in a bowl with a piece of grilled mochi.

I did this adjusting for 3, and from what I've seen, so far so good. I didn't add anywhere near enough water to the beans during cooking so I had to add a little on the fly, but it didn't seem to hurt it. We'll see how it actually turned out tomorrow when we eat it. :P

Normally, when making this, we'll make a fairly large pot; enough to serve ~10-12.

* If you can't get pre-made mochi squares, you can make your own dango with some mochiko rice flour. Place 1/2-1 c mochiko in a bowl and slowly mix in water to the flour until you make a softish dough. If you have lots of soup, you can boil and cook the dango in the soup (drop small bite-size balls of dough in the soup and cook until the dango floats; 1.5cm dia). If you don't have much soup, boil the dango in a separate pot of boiling water until it floats. Transfer to individual bowls or add to zenzai directly.

Okay, I just checked on our resting zenzai and it drank all the liquid! >_<;; I'll have to add more water tomorrow and do a final flavour adjustment then. Shall see whether we save this experiment for late night or if the regular batch will be ready for night time. ^^;


Posted by: wombat1138 (wombat1138)
Posted at: January 1st, 2006 08:15 am (UTC)

Discard water. This is to get rid of... the lye? (if you don't do this, it'll turn out very bitter).

I don't know much about azuki specifically, but under the theory that beans is beans, I'd guess the bitter component is water-soluble glycosaccharides, which might also provide entertaining gastrointestinal percussion if left in.

Actually, this reminds me that I have a package of dry azuki beans somewhere in the pantry, possibly even next to a box or two of mochiko. Surely this is A Sign.

Posted by: Shadow (kagedreams)
Posted at: January 1st, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)

*laughs* Do try. It's a really simple and yummy recipe. (I *love* zenzai and o-shiruko; zenzai without the beans).

The recipe as written works nicely, although I found that they didn't have enough sugar. It might vary, but we ended up adding a fair amount more sugar to get it properly sweetened. Over here, normally we put the beans in a pressure cooker and bring it to pressure then take it off the heat. It seriously reduces cooking time but also breaks the beans down a lot more. The 'net recipe maintains a lot more "bean" shape and a clearer soup which was aesthetically very nice. ^_^

Otherwise, if you're doing the mochiko way, keep the dango cooking for 10-20 mins after it floats. We discovered that last night. ^^;;

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