This Thursday we experienced another seasonal transition: the first day of winter. In this season, we put on our brave faces to welcome the season like we would an unlikeable neighbor with her icy stare and cold shoulder. Instead of shunning her, we will embrace her presence and thaw her frozen heart with a fiber and protein-rich, sweet red bean porridge.
Winter solstice, or dongji in Korea is markedly celebrated by consuming red bean porridge called pat (red bean) juk (porridge). The ancient belief is that the red color of the beans contains powerful energy to ward off evil spirits. There are two flavors of the red bean porridge: sweet and savory. The savory red bean porridge, which is customary to eat on winter solstice, is cooked with short grain rice. The sweet porridge, on the other hand, has a smoother and velvety texture without the rice; it can be served as a snack or dessert.
Below is the sweet version of the recipe.
My favorite part of the porridge is the hand-rolled rice cake balls made of sweet rice powder, sugar, and boiling water. They add a chewy texture that complements the smooth, thick porridge base. The irony is that the rice cake balls, or sae al sim in Korean, translates to “bird eggs.” Have no fear! This is a 100% vegan recipe void of any bird eggs.
Set aside about two hours for prepping and cooking; the bulk of the time is spent on simmering the red beans on low-medium for an hour and a half. Two hours sound like a long time but hey, it’s winter. Where can time be better spent than indoors cooking a nourishing treat for the soul?
Vegan Korean Sweet Red Bean Porridge
- 1 cup red beans (aka azuki beans)
- 8 cups water
- 1 tablespoon sweet rice flour (I recommend the brand Michiko).
- 10-15 dates, pitted
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 cup sweet rice flour
- 5 tablespoons or more as needed boiling water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- roasted chestnuts (optional)
- cinnamon (optional)
1. Add beans with four cups of water in a large pot. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil for five minutes.
2. Drain beans and return beans to pot with four cups of water. Cover and simmer at medium low heat for 60-90 minutes. Check periodically.
3. When beans are soft and breakable, turn off heat and let beans cool as is in the cooked liquid.
4. After cooling, puree the beans with their liquid and dates in a blender. If necessary, split into two batches.
5. Return bean puree to pot. Mix one tablespoon of sweet rice flour in ½ cup of water, and add to pot.
6. Simmer at low heat and stir frequently. Add more water to adjust thickness of porridge, or leave as is. Adjust sweetness as well.
Rice Cake Balls
1. While simmering porridge, mix rice flour and sugar in bowl. Stir in boiling hot water with spoon. Kneed by hand until dough is formed. If dough gets too dry, mist with water.
2. Shape dough into a thick cylinder. Cut into 3/4” pieces.
3. Roll each piece between palms into a small ball.
4. Add rice cake balls into a pot of boiling water. Cook until balls rise to the surface. Drain with cold water. Place in a bowl filled with cool water.
5. Add to porridge.
6. Garnish and serve.
Also by Vivian: Vegan Blue Onigiri With Curry Chickpea Filling
Related: Vegan Lentil Soup With Leek & Thyme
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Photos: Vivian Lee