Red Bean Soup

December 14, 2022

Successfully negotiated your way into a Chinese banquet. Here’s the recipe for the red bean soup that usually goes down well and for which there are never quite enough leftovers.

Everything from the cold platter of meats and jellyfish to the delicate stir-fried squid with mixed vegetables to the heaven-sent five-spice fried chicken to the walnut-mayonnaise fried shrimp and broccoli to the Cantonese-style lobster with ginger and scallions to the whole steamed fish to the fried rice and the longevity noodles—you’ve enjoyed it all.

Technically speaking, you have long since passed the point of “enjoyment” and entered the region of a food coma. You’re not sure how you managed to eat so many courses despite feeling so full. You’re scratching your head over your ice chip and Sprite binge. Was that last bowl of noodles absolutely necessary? AND hot pepper extract? You’re going to launch into a winding rumination about how the meal should have been more like a polite banquet and less like a demonstration of gluttony or any other of the seven deadly sins.

The wait staff arrives at that time. They set out steaming bowls of red bean soup and distribute the takeout containers necessary to contain the inevitable leftovers from the banquet. Clear tapioca pearls of varying sizes float in a thick, sweet broth.

You take another look around the wreckage. Your hand automatically goes to the red bean soup. Perhaps a little more space is available.


  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 cups of dried adzuki beans
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons of tapioca pearls
  • ¼ teaspoon of orange zest


  1. It’s important to start by rinsing the beans in cold water. Make sure the beans have soaked for at least 8 hours.
  2. The beans should be drained and put in a pot of about medium size. Substitute 6 glasses of clean water. For one hour, simmer after bringing it to a boil. If necessary, add another 2 cups of water throughout the hour.
  3. Blend with an immersion blender until the beans are just broken up; it shouldn’t be fully smooth (unless that’s your desire, you’re the cook here!). Do this until the beans appear soft and broken down. You can alternatively put the mixture in a blender and give it a few quick pulses to get the consistency you want.
  4. Return the combined ingredients to the cooking pot. Add more water at this point to achieve a soupier consistency if that’s what you prefer.
  5. Sugar and orange zest should be added. Dissolve the sugar by stirring over medium heat. Very low and slow bubbling is desired.
  6. Now comes the time to stir in the tapioca. Tapioca pearls need to be cooked for 20 minutes until they turn clear. Tapioca should be cooked separately according to some recipes. However, it can be added uncooked to the soup and still turn out good. Wait until the tapioca pearls are completely clear before serving.
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