This Sweet Red Bean Soup with Rice Dumplings is a classic Chinese dessert. It’s mildly sweet and earthy with chewy mochi balls. Cooking with dried mandarin orange peel or fresh orange zests will take the dessert soup to another level. It’s a perfect for Lunar New Year!
Hello everyone! How is your new year so far? I’ve been taking a break from the blog and focusing on our trip planning for later this month. It’s overwhelming, but I’m getting there.
But then, I realized that Lunar New Year is quickly approaching, it’s going to be on February 10th. I wanted to make something tasty to celebrate. Sweet Red Bean Soup with Rice Dumplings 紅豆沙湯丸 is a classic Chinese dessert soup. It can be served hot or cold. It’s mildly sweet and comforting. My favorite are the rice dumplings (Tang Yuan 湯丸). They add some bounciness and chewiness.
Glutinous rice dumplings are usually served the night before and on the last day (the 15th day) of Lunar New Year. It’s believed that the round dumplings symbolize family togetherness. Having the family all together is significant in Chinese culture. Although it’s hard to get together in today’s world, it’s a reminder to think about your families and talk to them on the phones when possible.
Traditionally, sweet red bean soup is made with dried mandarin orange peel. The peel adds aromatic and a nice bitterness to the dessert soup. Soak it for 30 minutes in room temperature water. Then using a spoon to scrape out some of the pith, as they are bitter. But since not everyone can get their hands on dried mandarin orange peel (or don’t want to buy a big bag). I have learned that you can use fresh orange zests. Instead of adding the peel in the beginning of cooking, add the orange zests at the very end and cook for just 15 minutes. The zests add a fruity and citrusy note and some freshness. I made both versions. They are both really good in a different ways, but Bryan and I are leaning towards the zest one. We like the unique fruitiness.
For the red beans, just make sure to soak them the night before. It helps the beans to be cooked more evenly and easier to digest. Cook the beans (with dried peel if using) for an hour. The beans start to break apart and softened. Most methods will have you continued cooking and wait until the beans break apart on their own. But to guarantee the beans to break apart, put them through a fine sieve. Press the beans with a wooden spoon and separate the inside and the outer skin. Do it little by little. Put all the inside part back to the pot. You can either put some or all of the outer skin back to the pot too. It depends on how you like your dessert soup. I added everything back this time, but I think I will only add about half next time.
Sweeten the soup at the very end with rock sugars. Rock sugars are less sweet than regular sugar. Start off with 60 grams. Taste and add more sugar if needed.
While the red bean is cooking, prepare the glutinous rice dumplings. All you need is glutinous rice flour and warm water. Add just enough water for the dough to come together. Knead it until smooth and slightly sticky. Divide into 15 portions and roll into little balls. Freeze them until ready to use. You don’t have to use all the dumplings all at once. I like to serve about 3 dumplings for each person. Add them in boiling water and cook for just 5 minutes. Add them to the sweet soup.
Bryan hasn’t had much red bean soup in his life. When he first saw this dessert, he was a little skeptical. But he finished the whole bowl, andd he said it was delicious! Hope you’ll like this too. Have your tried the orange zest version before? Let me know!
Sweet Red Bean Soup with Rice Dumplings
- 150 grams dried red bean (adzuki bean)
- 2 pieces of dried mandarin orange peel 陳皮 or 1/2 tablespoon fresh orange zest (about 1/2 orange)
- 11 cups water (divided)
- 60 – 80 grams rock sugar 冰糖
- Pinch of salt
Glutinous Rice Dumplings:
- 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour 糯米粉
- 1/4 cup warm water
- The night before, rinse the red beans. In a large bowl, soak the beans with room temperature water overnight (or for at least 8 hours).
- Next day, if using dried mandarin orange peel, rinse under tap water. In a small bowl, soak the peel with room temperature water for 30 minutes. Once soaked, using a spoon, scrape off the white pith from the peel. The pith is bitter.
- In a nonstick medium pot, add 6 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, add soaked red beans and soaked mandarin orange peel. Cook over medium heat for about 1 hour, stirring often.
- In the meantime, in a medium bowl, combine glutinous rice flour and half of the warm water. Using a clean hand, mix until the dough just comes together. Add more water if needed. Knead for at least 4 minutes. The dough should be smooth and with very little stickiness. Divide into 15 portions (about 6 grams each). Roll each portion into a small ball. Place them on a large freezer-safe plate with space in between. Chill in the freezer until frozen.
- Prepare a large sieve over a large bowl. Using a small sieve, transfer 1/2 cup of red beans into a big sieve. Press the beans with a spatula or wooden spoon. The mashed beans would strain through and leaving the outer skin in the sieve. Transfer the outer skin to a medium bowl. Continue with the rest of the red beans. Keep the liquid and dried orange peel in the pot.
- Add the mashed beans back to the pot (if desired, add some or all of the outer skin back as well). Add 4 1/2 cup water. Cook for another 45 minutes.
- Add more water if needed. Add 60 grams of rock sugar and salt in the red bean soup. Taste and adjust with more rock sugar if needed. If using fresh orange zest, add them right now. If using mandarin orange peel, remove the peel now. Cook for another 15 minutes and the sugar is melted, it’s ready.
- Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add desired amount of frozen rice balls. Cook for about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the red bean soup into serving bowls, add cooked glutinous rice dumplings. Serve hot.
- Dried red bean (adzuki bean) can be found in most Asian supermarkets.
- Dried mandarin orange peel can also be named as orange peel. You can find them in Chinese supermarkets.
- Rock sugar and glutinous rice flour (not rice flour) can be found in Chinese supermarkets.
- Leftover red bean soup can be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Frozen glutinous rice dumplings can be transferred to a ziploc bag and freeze for up to 2 weeks. Cook them when needed.