I love anything made with these small red beans called pat (팥) (aka azuki or adzuki beans). Good thing they are rich in nutrients! In the summer, I use these beans to make a popular shaved ice dessert, patbingsu . When the weather turns cool, I use them to make a porridge, patjuk (팥죽).
There are two types of red bean porridge in Korea – savory and sweet. Traditionally, savory patjuk is made with soaked short grain rice. It’s very filling and usually eaten as a meal with kimchi or dongchimi. This is the type of patjuk that’s customarily eaten on the winter solstice day (dongji). The custom originated from the ancient belief that the red color of the beans had positive energy that could drive away evil spirits. The sweet red bean porridge is called danpatjuk, 단팥죽. Dan means sweet. The sweet one is typically velvety smooth without grains of rice that are in the savory patjuk. In recent years, the sweet version is increasingly popular and enjoyed as a snack or dessert.
To make patjuk, the beans are cooked down until very soft. Then, the cooks traditionally mash the beans through a strainer to remove the skins to achieve a velvety texture. This process can be grueling, so I use a shortcut. Puree the beans as fine as possible in a blender. It’s much easier while still resulting in a very smooth porridge, and you don’t waste the nutritious bean skins.
This porridge is served with sweet rice cake balls called saealsim (새알심), bird eggs. They are easy to make with sweet rice powder/flour. I also like to top it with pine nuts, boiled chestnuts, and a sprinkle of cinnamon powder, but they are optional. This recipe yields a lightly sweetened porridge. Add more sugar or honey to your taste.
- 1 cup pat, 팥 (aka adjuki beans)
- 1 tablespoon glutinous rice powder (aka sweet rice powder)
- 2 tablespoon sugar (or light brown sugar)
- 1 tablespoon honey (or sugar) - add more to taste
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup glutinous rice powder (aka sweet rice powder), 찹쌀가루
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons boiling hot water
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts
- 4 to 6 boiled chestnuts
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- Discard broken or rotten beans and rinse the beans. In a large pot, add the beans with 4 cups of water. Bring it to a boil, uncovered, over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and boil for 5 min.
- Drain the beans.
- Return the beans to the pot with 4 cups of fresh water. Cover, and simmer over medium low heat until the beans are very soft and easily breakable, about 1 to 1-½ hours. Turn off the heat, and let the beans cool in the cooking liquid.
- Puree the beans along with the cooking liquid until velvety smooth. You may need to do this step in two batches. Add some water if the bean puree gets too thick.
- Return the bean puree to the pot. Mix one tablespoon of the sweet rice powder in ½ cup of water, and pour into the pot. Stir in the salt, sugar and honey.
- Simmer over medium low heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. Adjust the thickness of the porridge by adding more water if necessary.
- Mix the rice powder, sugar and salt in a bowl. Stir in the boiling hot water with a spoon. When cool enough to handle, knead by hand until a dough is formed.
Shape the dough into a 3/4-inch thick cylinder.
- Cut into (or pinch off) 3/4-inch pieces. Roll each piece between the palms to make a small ball.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the rice cake balls. Cook until all the balls float. Transfer to a large bowl with cold water to cool. Drain.