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Red bean paste (Chinese: 豆沙; Japanese: 小豆餡; Korean: 팥소) or red bean jam, also called adzuki bean paste, is a paste made of red beans (also called "adzuki beans"), used in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisines, as well as Japanese and Korean confectioneries. The paste is prepared by boiling the beans, then mashing or grinding them. At this stage, the paste can be sweetened or left as it is. The color of the paste is usually dark red, which comes from the husk of the beans. In Korean cuisine, the beans can also be husked prior to cooking, resulting in a white paste. It is also possible to remove the husk by sieving after cooking, but before sweeting, resulting in a red paste that is smoother and more homogeneous.
In Japanese, a number of names are used to refer to red bean paste; these include an(餡?), anko(餡子), and ogura(小倉). Strictly speaking, the term an can refer to almost any sweet, edible, mashed paste, with azukian(小豆餡?) referring specifically to the paste made with red beans, although without qualifiers red beans are assumed. Other common forms of an include shiroan(白餡, "white bean paste"), made from navy or other white beans, and kurian(栗餡), made from chestnuts.
Similarly, the Chinese term dòushā (豆沙), applies to red bean paste when used without qualifiers, although hóngdòushā (紅豆沙) explicitly means "red bean paste."
In Korean, pat (팥, "V. angularis") contrasts with kong (콩, "bean"), rather than being considered a type of it. Kong ("beans") without qualifiers usually means soybeans. As so (소) means "filling", the word patso means "pat filling", with unsweetened dark-red paste as its prototype. Dan (단, "sweet") attached to patso makes danpatso, the sweetened red bean paste. Geopi (거피, "hulled, skinned, peeled, shelled, etc.") attached to pat makes geopipat, the dehulled red beans, and the white paste made of geopipat is called geopipatso.
Mashed: Adzuki beans are boiled with sugar and mashed. The paste is smooth with bits of broken beans and bean husk. Depending on the intended texture, the beans can be vigorously or lightly mashed. Some unmashed beans can also be added back into the bean paste for additional texture. This is the most common and popular type of red bean paste eaten in Chinese confections. Can also be eaten on its own or in sweet soups.
Smooth: Adzuki beans are boiled without sugar, mashed, and diluted into a slurry. The slurry is then strained through a sieve to remove the husk, filtered, and squeezed dry using cheesecloth. Although the dry paste can be directly sweetened and used, oil, either vegetable oil or lard, is usually used to cook the dry paste and improve its texture and mouth feel. Smooth bean paste is mainly found as fillings for Chinese pastries.
Red bean paste is used in many Chinese foods, such as:
Red bean soup (紅豆湯/紅豆沙; pinyin: hóng dòu tāng / hóng dòu shā): Red bean paste with more water added to form a tong sui, or thick, sweet soup. It is often cooked and eaten with tangyuan and lotus seeds. This is almost always a dessert.
Tangyuan (湯圓, pinyin: tāng yúan): Glutinous rice balls filled with sweet fillings such as red bean paste and boiled in plain or sweetened water
Zongzi (粽子; pinyin: zòng zi): Glutinous rice and red bean paste wrapped with bamboo leaves and steamed or boiled. The glutinous rice used to make zongzi is usually specially prepared and appears yellow.
Mooncakes (月餅; yùe bĭng): A baked pastry consisting of thin dough surrounding a filling. The filling is traditionally made from various ingredients, including mashed lotus seeds, red bean paste, or other fillings. The texture of this filling is quite similar to straight red bean paste. It is most commonly eaten during the Mid Autumn Festival.
Bāozi (豆沙包; pinyin: dòu shā bāo): Steamed leavened bread filled with a variety of savoury or sweet fillings
Jiān dui (煎堆): Fried pastry made from glutinous rice flour, sometimes filled with red bean paste
The Naruto character Anko Mitarashi is derived from Anko, meaning sweetened red bean paste and mitarashi dango, which happens to be her favorite food.
The cartoon hero Anpanman is an anthropomorphic anpan bun filled with adzuki bean paste.
In Natsume Sōseki's classic novel I Am a Cat, Prof. Sneeze is addicted to red bean jam, on which his wife blames both his dyspepsia and the family's unaffordable food bills.
The Deadman Wonderland character Shiro is fond of red bean paste buns and often uses her points earned in competitions to buy them.
The character Dr. Andonuts, from EarthBound, because of his name, probably enjoys donuts(shown on his clay model for the game) with red bean paste.
In the anime series, Tamako Market, the titular character, Kitashirakawa Tamako's younger sister is named Anko, meaning sweetened red bean paste.
The 2015 Japanese movie, An (called Sweet Bean in English) focuses on a man who runs a stall selling Dorayaki and an old woman who comes to work for him and teaches him how to make the best red bean paste he has ever tasted.