Straits Chinese Red Bean Soup

Malaysian-Chinese dessert recipe Red Bean Soup by

If I say, Red Bean Soup, what flavors do you imagine?

For many of you, red bean and soup both conjure up savory flavors, maybe even a bowl of Texas chili.  But if you are Asian, your sweet tooth acts up thinking about one of your favorite, high-protein desserts.

A type of Tang Shui 糖水 - which means sweet water in Chinese - red bean soup is generally made from adzuki beans, boiled until soft and served together with the rich, dark red liquid.

Malaysian-Chinese dessert recipe Red Bean Soup by

Each Asian community has their own version of red bean soup, adding in ingredients such as lotus seeds, sago, tangerine peels, and coconut milk.

For the Straits Chinese in Malaysia & Singapore, we keep this traditional dessert on the simpler side, combining just red beans, water, sugar and dried longan fruit. To enhance the fragrance, we may also add pandan leaves to steep in the boiling water.

how to tie pandan leaf knot

Even though adzuki beans are the customary beans used in the dessert, I found red kidney beans a good substitute.  The bigger beans offer a bigger bite, just like how the beans are added to the famous Penang dessert - Teochew Chendol.

For my version of red bean soup, I like the red beans – whether adzuki or kidney beans – cooked until a tad mushy, and the soup not too sweet.  I also love adding in dried tangerine peel, or orange peel, to give the soup a boost of zesty tang.

Malaysian-Chinese dessert recipe Red Bean Soup by

Believed in Chinese culture to be the symbol of all things good, the rich red color of Red Bean Soup 豆汤 will bring you happiness and good fortune with each slurp of the dessert.

Enjoy this bowl of happiness for an auspicious Chinese New Year, or anytime of the year, by serving it hot during the winter and cold in the summer.

Red Bean Soup recipe by Season with Spice
Makes 6 bowls

What you’ll need:
1 cup dried adzuki beans or kidney beans
6 cups water
5 pandan leaves - tied up in a knot
2-3 tbsp rock sugar or raw cane sugar
1/2 cup dried longan fruit - rinsed
1 dried orange peel or tangerine peel

1. Cook beans, along with pandan leaves, in a slow cooker. Click here for instructions on how to cook beans.
2. When the beans are softened and ready to eat, add in the dried longan and the dried orange or tangerine peel. Simmer until longan fruit expands (should be about 10 minutes).
3. Add in a tablespoon of rock sugar and mix well. Taste, and add in another 1-2 tablespoons of rock sugar if you want a sweeter version.
4. Serve it hot in the winter, or refrigerate the soup for a few hours and serve it cold in the summer.

- A quick way to dry the orange peel is to slice it thinly and refrigerate the pieces for a few hours