Thursday, 5 January 2012

I Believe The Term You're Looking For Is 'Amazeballs'

Yeah, this is a post about soup.
A sweet soup.  Made of beans.  Red adzuki beans.  It's one of those 'weird Asian desserts'.  

But you know what?

It's tasty as hell.  Easy to make.  Even *gasp* good for you.  And contains one sacrilegious, gosh-darn-crazee ingredient guaranteed to make generation of Chinese grandmothers roll in their graves.  As well as an optional extra which doubles as a sticky yet-oh-so-right choking hazard.

So now that you've got the emergency room number on speed-dial, let us foray, explore, plunder.


Red Bean Soup with Grilled Mochi

This was a pretty common after-school treat Mum used to have on hand when I was growing up as a child in Malaysia.  Sweet soups (otherwise known as 'Tong Sui' in Cantonese) are common as desserts, snacks or 'elevenses' in Asia, with different soups touted as being good for you in different ways.
For example, you might partake in dose of sweet potato and ginger soup if you're down with a cold, as the sweet potato assists with removing cold and stagnancy, whilst ginger promotes warmth and circulation.  When the Chinese go on about food being medicine and vice versa, they are very definitely not kidding.

So, what of the humble adzuki bean, then?  According to Professor Lun Wong's book 'Food For The Seasons - Eat Well and Stay Healthy The Traditional Chinese Way', red or adzuki beans are "sweet and sour, warming and remove damp.  They clear heat and remove toxins by freeing up urination which benefits the kidneys.  Adzuki beans also alleviate swelling and calm down skin infections.  Adzuki beans are useful for anyone with diarrhoea and anyone wanting to lose weight." 

Wow.  Who knew?  I sure as hell didn't, especially not when I was a kid with my face crammed in a bowl of sweet, red, mandarin-scented goodness.  I just knew I wanted more.  And with the heat of summer recently, the craving stirred as an adult too.  

Sometimes, Western-style sweets can be a little heavy when the weather is hot, especially if there's wheat or dairy involved.  If you're feeling a little bloated, a little warm and lazy, the marvel of a good 'tong sui' can save the day (or at least your appetite!)

The Recipe - Red Adzuki Bean Sweet Soup with Grilled Mochi (serves 6-8)

What you do:
  1. Rinse your soaked beans and put 'em in a big pot.
  2. Add the sugar to your beans.  It can be almost any type of sugar, but I wouldn't recommend palm - too treacle-y.
    White granulated sugar is the easiest to come by, but you can experiment with yellow rock sugar or brown slab sugar.  
  3. Add the water and bring to the boil.
    Once it's at a rolling boil, turn down and simmer gently on the lowest heat you can manage.
    Put a lid on the pot, but leave it open just a crack to let some steam out.
  4. Let it simmer away for about 2 hours.
    By now the beans should have softened to the stage where you can squish' em between your fingers, and the liquid should be a dark, opaque red-brown.
  5. Now, this next step is what I like to do; if you're an elderly Cantonese grandmother you should look away now.  Step away from the computer and switch the darn thing off, because you will not approve.
    I can see you shaking your head already.  Ok? Ok.
    For the rest of you: Just before turning off the heat, add two good dashes of Fee's orange bitters.
    Yep, the type that goes in cocktails.
    I know.
    I know.  But let me explain.
    Traditionally, you'd add a piece of dried orange or mandarin peel at the start.  It gives the soup a deep, burnished waft of citrus and a lovely tang.  Like a swing of the hips whilst wearing a pencil skirt and high heels, it gives it a bit o' dat sumfin' sumfin'.
    Well, the addition of Fee's orange bitters does the same thing, with equal depth of flavour.
    And no, it's not a terrible, one-dimensional orange cordial flavour - it's more like that verging-on-bitter scent that you get when you're peeling citrus fruit with your fingers, the perfume from the oils.  That's what it's like.
    Deep, like the very soul of an orange.  So just add the damn bitters already.  Good.
  6. If you like your soup thicker, you can jam a stick blender in the pot and whizz away to your liking.  Otherwise, leave it as is.
  7. Grill the mochi until puffy and crackly-brown on the outside.  You can do this in a toaster oven or under the grill.  Also, placing the mochi pieces on an oiled piece of aluminium foil helps things be less messy.    
  8. Serve the soup in small bowls, with a piece of grilled mochi cake in each bowl.
  9. EAT!
This can be served hot or cold.  Either way, it's delicious, tastes freakin' amazeballs and is full of good stuff.

Oh, and if you're in Australia, you can get Fee Brothers Orange Bitters HERE.
And no, I don't have anything against using dried orange/mandarin peel - I just happened to have the bitters in the booze cabinet and no oranges or mandarins in the house.  I may be a heathen wench, but I don't do it on purpose!

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