Azuki Coffee Jelly

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Back in fifth grade, my Japanese-American teacher gave us this recipe for a red bean coffee jelly dessert.  It’s simple, delicious, and pretty with its two contrasting layers, and we’ve continued to make it over the years.

Note on pan size: The original recipe calls for a 9″ x 11″ pan, but any pan with a similar surface area will work.  Actually, any pan will work – it will just change the thicknesses (and aesthetics) of the layers and the amount of time the dessert takes to chill and set.

 

Azuki Coffee Jelly
From my fifth grade teacher

Yield: 9″ x 11″ pan

  • 4 envelopes (about 4 rounded tablespoons) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 teaspoons instant coffee
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can tsubushi-an (sweetened red bean paste with beans)

 

  1. In a large bowl, place 1/2 cup cold water, sprinkle in gelatin, and mix well.  This step prevents lumps from forming.
  2. Stir in 2 cups boiling water.
  3. Stir in instant coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and tsubushi-an.
  4. Lightly grease a 9″ x 11″ pan (or a pan with a similar surface area) and pour in coffee-gelatin mix.  The tsubushi-an will settle to the bottom in an even layer.
  5. Cover and place in refrigerator to chill overnight, or until set.
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Mochi Balls with Red Bean Filling

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Unlike the mochi balls with black sesame filling and crushed peanut coating, this is a more conventional recipe with a red bean filling, which I personally prefer.  You can find cans of red bean paste in Asian supermarkets, such as Ranch 99.

To make the mochi, I use a Tatung rice cooker in which you put water in both an outer pot and an inner pot.  You can improvise this arrangement on the stove: Set a wire rack or an upside-down bowl in a large pot of water.  Place whatever ingredients you’re steaming in another bowl and set it on top of the rack or the upside-down bowl to keep it out of the water.  Cover pot with a lid and bring water to a boil.

 

Mochi Balls with Red Bean Filling
From the World Journal

Yield: about 24 mochi balls

  • 1 1/2 cups (2 rice cooker cups) sticky rice flour
  • 3/4 cup (1 rice cooker cup) sugar
  • 1 1/8 cup (1 1/2 rice cooker cups) water
  • 1 can red bean paste
  • Corn starch OR tapioca starch, for dusting work surface and outside of mochi balls

 

  1. In either the inner pot of the rice cooker or a bowl that you will steam on the stove, stir together sticky rice flour and sugar.
  2. Add water and mix well.  Make sure there are no small pockets of flour left.
  3. Steam mixture.
    • If using the rice cooker, place inner pot into the rice cooker and add 1 rice cooker cup of water to the outer pot.
    • If cooking on the stove, steam for about 30 minutes.
  4. While the mochi mixture is still hot, begin to shape the mochi balls.  Work quickly, because the mochi becomes harder to handle when it cools.
  5. Spoon out a small portion of mochi (about 2 tablespoons) and flatten it on the work surface.  Dusting it lightly with corn OR tapioca starch makes it easier to handle, but too much will make it difficult to seal the edges later.  (It’s not a very delicate recipe, so just experiment until you find an amount that works for you.)
  6. Place about 1 teaspoon of red bean paste in the center.
  7. Pinch the edges of the mochi together, pick up the ball, and roll it in the bowl of cornstarch so it’s no longer very sticky.  Don’t worry if the mochi ball sticks to the work surface and you have to scrape it off, or if the mochi stretches and breaks.  Just pinch the edges back together.
  8. Roll the mochi ball gently between your palms to make it round and set it aside on a serving platter.
  9. Cover mochi balls until ready to serve, so they don’t dry out and harden.
  10. If desired, the mochi balls can be frozen for later.

Improvised Sweet Zongzi (Sticky Rice Dumplings)

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Zongzi, or sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves and then steamed, are delicious but laborious to make.  However, I’ve found that red bean paste has such a strong flavor that it overwhelms any subtle bamboo leaf notes anyway, so you might as well make them in ramekins or small bowls.  The nicest part is that you can use ramekins with fun shapes – what better Valentine’s Day treat than a heart-shaped, red bean paste-filled dessert?

Cooking notes:

  • You can find everything in a Chinese supermarket.  The red bean paste will probably come in a can and sometimes misleadingly shows a picture of whole beans on the label.  Ask the cashier if you’re not sure.
  • I make my sticky rice in a Tatung rice cooker in which you put water in both an outer pot and an inner pot.  You can improvise this arrangement on the stove: Set a wire rack or an upside-down bowl in a large pot of water.  Place whatever ingredients you’re steaming in another bowl and set it on top of the rack or the upside-down bowl to keep it out of the water.  Cover pot with a lid and bring water to a boil.

 

Improvised Sweet Zongzi (Sticky Rice Dumplings)

Yield: 4 servings

  • 3/4 cup (1 rice cooker cup) sticky rice, aka sweet rice or glutinous rice, although it has no gluten
  • 1 1/8 cup (1 1/2 rice cooker cups) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or a few pieces of candy crystal (optional)
  • 3/4 cup (1 rice cooker cup) red bean paste (or more, to taste)

 

  1. Rinse the sticky rice with cold water a couple times.
  2. Cook the sticky rice.
    • If using a Tatung rice cooker, place sticky rice, 1 1/2 rice cooker cups water, and sugar (if using) in the inner pot.  Place 2 rice cooker cups water in the outer pot and steam. It takes 45-50 minutes.
    • If cooking on a stove, steam ingredients for about 45 minutes, adding more water to the pot if necessary.
  3. Grease 4 (6-oz or 8-oz) ramekins.  Small bowls will also do in a pinch.  Make sure you do this thoroughly, or the zongzi won’t come out cleanly.
  4. When the rice is done, divide it into 4 equal amounts.  Pat about 2/3 of each amount into a layer on the bottom and sides of a ramekin.  I try to get the layer as thin as possible to maximize the red bean paste to rice ratio, but this is up to you.
  5. Spoon red bean paste into the center of the rice in each ramekin.
  6. Cover with remaining rice and pat smooth.
  7. Steam again.  You may have to do this in batches.
    • If using the rice cooker, use 1 rice cooker cup of water in the outer pot.  It takes about 30 minutes.
    • If cooking on a stove, place the ramekins on a plate, and then set the plate on the wire rack or upside-down bowl.  Steam for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove and cool on the counter just until the ramekins are cool enough to handle.
  9. Loosen the edges of the rice from the ramekins with a knife.  Place a serving plate over a ramekin and flip it over so the zongzi falls out.  Repeat for the others.  (Alternatively, you can just eat it directly from the ramekin.)
  10. Serve warm.
  11. If you make too many zongzi, you can cool them completely, wrap the ramekins in aluminum foil, and freeze them.  To reheat, you don’t even need to defrost them – just steam for about 45 minutes.

Eight Treasure Rice (Ba Bao Fan)

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In honor of Chinese New Year, here is the recipe for Eight Treasure Rice.  Ba Bao Fan, as it is called in Chinese, is  a popular dessert made with sticky rice, red bean paste, and enough types of dried or candied fruits to bring the ingredients to eight.  Whether or not you count the sticky rice as one of the “treasures” is up to you, and of course, no one says that you need to include exactly eight ingredients!

Cooking notes:

  • You can find everything in a Chinese supermarket.  The red bean paste will probably come in a can and sometimes misleadingly shows a picture of whole beans on the label.  Ask the cashier if you’re not sure.
  • Some common toppings include dried dates, guiyuan (dried longan), candied lotus seeds (which you can buy around Chinese New Year), dried lychees, dried loquat, and red and green candied fruit that you put in fruitcake.
  • I make my sticky rice in a Tatung rice cooker in which you put water in both an outer pot and an inner pot.  You can improvise this arrangement on the stove: Set a wire rack or an upside-down bowl in a large pot of water.  Place whatever ingredients you’re steaming in another bowl and set it on top of the rack or the upside-down bowl to keep it out of the water.  Cover pot with a lid and bring water to a boil.

 

Eight Treasure Rice (Ba Bao Fan)

Yield: 8 servings

  • 3/4 cup (1 rice cooker cup) sticky rice, aka sweet rice or glutinous rice, although it has no gluten
  • 1 1/8 cup (1 1/2 rice cooker cups) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or a few pieces of candy crystal (optional)
  • a handful of your favorite toppings (see above for suggestions)
  • 3/4 cup (1 rice cooker cup) red bean paste (or more, to taste)

 

  1. Rinse the sticky rice with cold water a couple times.
  2. Cook the sticky rice.
    • If using a Tatung rice cooker, place sticky rice, 1 1/2 rice cooker cups water, and sugar (if using) in the inner pot.  Place 2 rice cooker cups water in the outer pot and steam. It takes 45-50 minutes.
    • If cooking on a stove, steam ingredients for about 45 minutes, adding more water to the pot if necessary.
  3. While rice is cooking, soak dates in a little water to soften them.  Cut them into strips, removing the pits.
  4. You can stir-fry the red bean paste briefly, but I usually skip this step.
  5. Grease a domed, medium bowl and arrange the dried and candied fruits on the bottom.
  6. When the rice is done, pat about 2/3 of it into a layer on the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  7. Spoon red bean paste into the center of the rice.
  8. Cover with remaining rice and pat smooth.
  9. Steam again.
    • If using the rice cooker, use 1 rice cooker cup of water in the outer pot.  It takes about 30 minutes.
    • If cooking on a stove, steam for 30 minutes.
  10. When the bowl is cool enough to handle, loosen the edges of the rice from the bowl with a knife.  Place a serving plate over the bowl and flip them over so the Eight Treasure Rice falls out.
  11. Serve warm.