Green tea smoothie with rice & soy milk

This is just too yummy not to write about. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo because I made it for a midnight snack so no natural light for getting good shots. [P.S. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to consume green tea at midnight! I was so hyper when I went to bed :P]


Of all the commercial non-dairy milks, my favourite is the Rice & Soy Beverage from Eden Foods. It’s got a rich, creamy texture and it’s subtle tastes are probably due to the inclusion of amazake, which is made from organic short grain brown rice and the fermentation starter, koji (Aspergillus Oryzae) as well as kombu seaweed. As amazake is fermented, those on a strict anti-candida diet should probably avoid this milk alternative. Read more about amazake and a detailed description of the product here.

There are instructions on the side of the carton to make the green tea smoothie:
1 cup Rice & Soy Beverage
1 tsp matcha green tea powder [1 used 1 1/2 tsp]
Blend till green tea dissolves and enjoy!

I have some homemade red bean paste in the fridge, so perhaps tomorrow morning I’ll try a red bean version.

Red bean agar with glutinous rice ball 白玉紅豆糕

This is from the Hong Kong-published wagashi recipe book, 日式和菓子, where it is called Shiratama Azuki Mizuyoukan 白玉紅豆糕.

As I was already making glutinous rice balls, I thought it would be convenient to try out this recipe at the same time.

Red bean shiratama agar

50g glutinous rice flour/ shiratamako
45 ml water

These are the quantities given in the recipe for 6-8 balls. My own recipe and tips for glutinous rice balls are here.

Before making the agar-agar, put one cooked glutinous rice ball into each mould. The recipe used small waterproof bags to create unevenly-shaped agar-agar for a unique appearance. However I wasn’t sure about pouring boiling agar-agar liquid into plastic bags so I went for some silicone baking cups instead.

80g red bean paste (already sweetened to taste or omit sugar if desired, my cooking instructions here)
4g agar-agar powder|
240ml water

The instructions in the book say: “Mix agar-agar powder with water in pot. Heat until agar-agar completely dissolves. Add in red bean paste.”

As usual I failed to follow instructions and started by mixing my chunky red bean paste with water, hoping to get a more even red bean liquid. (Yes, I should have used the food processor to make a smooth paste but I already had a disaster earlier in the day when I processed my red bean paste soon after it had been used to for chillies!! Hmmm, spicy red bean paste could be the beginnings of an entirely new food adventure…) So when the agar-agar powder entered the hot water, it immediately clumped up :P and I had to resort to much whisking to try and rectify the problem. Should have learnt my lesson after the water chestnut fritters experience.

In retrospect, I should have put the red bean paste and water in a blender (no chilli taste!) to get a smooth liquid. Then put the agar-agar powder into the room temperature red bean liquid before heating up the whole thing whilst stirring all the time.

Pour the agar-agar liquid into the moulds containing the glutinous rice balls. Put into refrigerator until hardened.

Makes 6 to 8 pieces.

The first thing I would say about this wagashi is – please eat immediately! The glutinous rice ball in the middle was a nice texture contrast to the agar-agar and like a special surprise inside. It was a bit harder than hot glutinous rice balls, but still nice and chewy. Later that day, the glutinous rice balls had turned too dry and hard in the centre whilst remaining gluey on the outside, and this became worse the next day and the day after. Serves me right for making 12 pieces instead of the 6 to 8 in the recipe!

Also, because my red bean was fairly solid, it separated out from the rest of the liquid whilst setting. You can see here the two clearly-demarcated layers. Which isn’t really a problem, simply a point to note; just depends on the effect you are trying to create.

red bean shiratama layers

Buckwheat pancakes with red bean paste

Buckwheat red bean pancakes

As I wrote earlier, using buckwheat is one way to rotate foods and keep food intolerance reactions at bay. With a 1kg bag of buckwheat flour to use up, I made some more pancakes today. I was inspired to make these red bean rolls from photos of various wagashi in the recipe books I have.

I found the all-buckwheat pancakes the last time a bit too brittle in texture and deduced that this was because of the low gluten content of buckwheat. So instead of simply mixing it with plain all-purpose flour, I chose bread flour which has a higher percentage of gluten, and thus I figured would produce a more pliable pancake.


3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup plain bread flour/high-gluten flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
approx. 320ml soya milk [or any other kind of milk]
2 tsp melted butter

Mix flours & baking powder together.

Mix beaten egg into flour, then add milk a bit at a time until consistency of pouring cream is reached.

Beat in the melted butter.

I cooked the pancakes in a 10cm blini pan on medium-high heat. Low heat means that they are in the pan longer and a hard surface develops, whereas I wanted soft pancakes that could be rolled.

Red Bean Filling

There are clear instructions from Just Hungry – but leave out the salt and sugar and if you are short of time, there’s no need for overnight (or any) soaking, although soaking will shorten the cooking time and save electricity/gas. Like 日式和菓子, one of my wagashi recipe books from Hong Kong, Just Hungry tells us to boil the beans quickly once, throw away the water then boil again.

As I already had cooked red beans in the fridge from the day before, I simply put some in a skillet and gently stirred it around over low heat with sugar added to taste (which can be omitted if so desired). This dries out the cooked beans to make it into a paste and you can mash the beans up at the same time. Don’t overcook or it will get too dry and have crispy bits forming – at the crispy stage, it will have become the equivalent of Mexican refried beans (inspiration for a whole new dish ^_^?)!

If the red bean paste is too crumbly and not sticking together, mix in oil till you get a nice paste consistency. I used cold-pressed organic safflower oil but it imparted a distinct taste when I compared it with the oil-free red beans; although I didn’t notice the safflower oil taste when I ate the dish later in the day. So remember to use a flavourless oil, or choose one that will enhance the dish. Coconut oil might be worth a try, but can be overpowering so best to mix with another oil. Butter would probably be good. I’ve heard that the reason red bean paste in Chinese restaurants and food stalls tastes so good is because lard is used :).

Finally, spoon some red bean paste in the middle of a pancake and roll it up!

Leftover pancakes can be frozen (with paper or cling film in between the pancakes) and I usually leave my cooked red bean in the fridge, where it soon disappears into many different dishes.

I put a couple in today’s snack bento, but they fell apart and also weren’t that nice cold. I popped them into the microwave and yumminess was soon restored (^_^)!

9/2/08 update: In my second attempt to put these into a bento, I deconstructed the pancakes & filling as illustrated below. It worked much better this way.

bento buckwheat pancakes redbean 400

Red bean soy smoothie

I’ve blogged earlier about various azuki/ red bean recipes and how versatile an ingredient they are. In my recent attempts at making Chinese snacks and Japanese wagashi, red beans are a very common ingredient.

Inspired by the packaged red bean milk 紅豆奶 and green bean milk 綠豆奶 I saw in convenience stores everywhere in Taiwan, one of my favourite ways to consume red beans (and green mung beans) is in a smoothie with whatever type of milk I have on hand – cow’s milk, soya bean milk, oat milk, rice milk etc. It’s a great breakfast food, sustaining and healthy.

Red milk soya milk

The best part about having red bean soya milk is that both the red bean and soya milk can be easily made at home with as little sugar as you want. I usually omit sugar completely and even with no sugar at all the smoothie can be very yummy!

Follow the instructions at Just Hungry for making soya bean milk and do have a look at Zlamushka’s helpful slideshow on how to make soya milk. Just Hungry also describes how to make red bean paste, however I do it slightly differently. I soak the beans in at least two and a half times the volume of water for a few hours – not as long as 24 hours – until they swell up, then I cook them in fresh water without salt or sugar in a mini electric crockpot, adding more water if it gets too dry.

Chunky red bean paste (as described in Just Hungry’s instructions) tastes better in various snacks and sweets (such as the familiar Chinese tau sar/dou sha bao 豆沙包, in steamed or bread bun versions, and Japanese botamochi/ohagi) but I’ve found that it’s more useful to blend the cooked red beans into a smooth paste. When you want to make a smoothie, the smooth red bean paste can be easily mixed by hand with the soya bean milk to the desired consistency. A mini whisk for beverages is very useful for this (available in Daiso).

I used to drink my red/green bean smoothies cold, but in the last couple of years I’ve noticed how cold foods upset my digestive system. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cold foods and drinks are generally to be avoided as they are too cooling/yin. Do note that green mung beans are also classified as yin in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Red azuki beans are more neutral in yin/yang terms and therefore a better choice.

However, the wonderful thing about red/green bean milk is that it’s also delicious hot! Think of warm Chinese red bean desserts, such as the glutinous rice balls in sweet red bean soup I made earlier or the Korean version. After mixing the red bean paste & soya bean milk from the fridge, just heat up the smoothie in the microwave or on the stove and it’s ready to be enjoyed ^_^.

5-coloured glutinous rice balls in milk soup 五色白玉ミルク

This recipe comes from a book of Japanese autumn & winter wagashi or sweet snacks: 《和果子.和甘味 (秋冬篇)》 (in Chinese and English). The Japanese name for glutinous rice balls is shiratama and glutinous rice flour is shiratamako.

Shiratama round

The five colours are supposed to be white, pink (red rice powder 紅穀粉), green (matcha/ green tea powder), brown (brown sugar) and yellow (pumpkin). As I don’t have red rice powder, I made lavender-coloured ones using purple mountain yam powder 紫山藥粉. I like the fact that only natural colourings are used because artificial additives tend to cause food intolerance reactions for me. [23/12/07 update: read more about natural colourings for glutinous rice dough here.]


Serves 4

100g glutinous rice flour
1 tsp cooked pumpkin flesh [NB: no discernible pumpkin taste in the cooked rice balls]
1 tsp brown sugar [NB: surprisingly doesn’t make the glutinous rice balls that sweet]
1/2 tsp green tea powder (matcha) [NB: too much, green colour comes out too dark, matcha taste is too strong and bitter]
1/2 tsp purple mountain yam powder [NB: the slight medicinal taste might not appeal to everyone; as I noted here, mountain yam is commonly used as a traditional Chinese medicinal food]
300ml milk/soya bean milk/coconut milk
appropriate amount of red (azuki) bean paste

1) Divide the glutinous rice flour into five 20g portions.
2) Mix the cooked pumpkin flesh with 20g glutinous rice flour. I tried to distribute the pumpkin evenly by rubbing it into the flour.
3) Melt the brown sugar in a little bit of warm water. Mix with 20g glutinous rice flour.
4) Mix 1/2 tsp green tea powder (matcha) with 20g glutinous rice flour.
5) Mix 1/2 tsp purple mountain yam powder with 20g glutinous rice flour. This is what the packet of yam powder looks like:

Purple mountain yam powder

6) Mix each portion of flour with just enough warm water to make a dough that can be rolled smoothly. I’ve read some recipes that specify warm water, and Commoi mentions in the comments here that it’s supposed to make the texture of the dough more smooth.

Do use your hands to mix the flour and water so that you can accurately gauge the correct consistency. After my initial problems getting the dough shaped nicely, I’ve realised that If the dough is too soft, it’s difficult to roll into an evenly-rounded shape.

Divide each flavour of dough into four pieces to make four rice balls of each flavour (the photo below shows triple quantities). To divide the dough evenly, I rolled each piece of dough into a strip then put it this chopping sheet with measurements and cut the strip with a pair of scissors into the required number of pieces.

Shiratama uncooked

7) Boil a large pot of water to cook the glutinous rice balls. They are ready when they float to the top. (See my notes on storing the leftover glutinous rice balls here.)

8) Serve in milk soup with a dollop of red (azuki) bean paste. As the red beans and coconut/soya milk were already cool or taken from the fridge, I put the whole dish in the microwave to heat up before serving.

The red beans were cooked without sugar and sweetened to taste when serving, as I did here. In the original recipe, the soup is made from cow’s milk. Instead of this, I made two options: coconut milk (see photo of round-shaped balls above) or soya bean milk (see photo of dented balls below). Both can be sweetened with white sugar to taste when serving.

Notes on making soya bean milk: please follow the instructions from Just Hungry. You can also squeeze the liquid out of the soya bean pulp before cooking and it won’t be so hot and difficult to handle. Then you simply need to bring the liquid to the boil, scooping the foam off the top as you go. One way to take away the raw taste is to add a few pandan leaves when boiling the soya bean milk.

Alternatively, cut down the manual labour of soya bean milk making by using a blender with filter core attachment, or use a soya milk machine.

The Japanese style is to make a dent in the middle of each glutinous rice ball, as shown below. However, for today’s Winter Solstice celebration, round glutinous rice balls are eaten to symbolise family togetherness, so I also made a round version. The shape does make a difference to the ‘mouth feel’ 口感 with the round shape producing a firmer, more chewy (or ‘Q’) version and the flattened, Japanese shape gives a softer yet pleasantly sticky texture.


Korean glutinous rice balls in red bean porridge

Just came across this wonderful food blog, 小小米桶的寫食廚房, by a Taiwanese housewife and published food writer, whose nickname is “Xiao Xiao Mitong” (Tiny Rice Tub). The large collection of recipes, including Japanese and Korean ones, is accompanied by plenty of stunning photographs, and annotated with Mitong’s cooking comments.

With Winter Solstice just a couple of days away, the latest posting is for a Korean variation on Chinese tang yuan in red bean soup. Mitong also has a numerous archived recipes for glutinous rice balls, which are also traditionally eaten on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, Yuan Xiao. See her 2007 recipes here and 2006 ones here. They include filled glutinous rice balls, Hakka savoury tang yuan as well as Japanese-style ones.

Click here to see Mitong’s instructions (in Chinese) and her her delectable photographs for Winter Solstice red bean porridge 冬至紅豆粥 / 동지팥죽.

Unlike the tang yuan in red bean soup I made earlier, the red bean here has been combined with a porridge of glutinous rice (cooked in the liquid from cooking the red beans), and the tang yuan added to this mixture. See also my other postings on glutinous rice balls.

22/12/07 update: Mitong has very kindly allowed me to put up my English translation of her recipe; just in time for Dong Zhi 冬至 today!

Red Bean Porridge with Glutinous Rice Balls

NB 1: The photographs here show a chunky red bean soup, however the in the original Korean recipe, the red bean soup is meant to be a smooth paste. Use a blender to pulverise the cooked beans if you prefer a smooth texture.

NB 2: Do not add anything to the red beans as they are cooking. When serving, you can add a bit of salt or sugar to taste into the serving bowl.

Serves 2-3

Red beans…. 2 cups
Glutinous rice (a.k.a. Japanese sweet rice)…. 1 cup [can substitute with 1/2 glutinous rice, 1/2 regular white rice]
Brown or dark brown sugar OR salt (to taste)
Glutinous rice flour…. 1 cup
Warm water… enough to form the glutinous rice flour into balls

1. Wash red beans, soak in clean water for half a day. Put in pot and boil until soft. Separate the cooked beans from the liquid. Process the red beans into a paste by passing through a sieve or using a blender. The smoother the better.

2. Wash the glutinous rice, soak in water for 2 hrs. Then put into the red bean liquid from (1) and boil until the rice is thoroughly cooked. Occasionally check on the rice while it is cooking and add more water if required so as to control the consistency.

3. When the glutinous rice has been cooked to a porridge consistency, add it to the red bean paste and mix evenly.

4. While the rice porridge is cooking, prepare the glutinous rice balls by mixing the glutinous rice balls with a bit of warm water. You may wish to add 1 small spoonful of ginger juice to the warm water as this will enhance the flavour of the glutinous rice balls.

5. Finally, cook the glutinous rice balls by putting them into the red bean porridge mixture and heating up the porridge. Alternatively, you can cook the glutinous rice balls in a separate pot of hot water, then add them to the red bean porridge.

Glutinous rice balls in red bean soup

The Winter Solstice, or Dong Zhi 冬至 (Tang Chek in Hokkien dialect), is coming up soon on 22 December, as you can see from my traditional calendar:

Dongzhi calendar

This is a Chinese festival during which glutinous rice balls, tang yuan 湯圓, are served. [23/12/07 update: Read this Straits Times‘ columnist’s reflections on her family’s celebration of Tang Chek in Penang.] The Modern Vegetarian has got an early start and has already blogged about her tang yuan recipes, read them here and here.

However when I made a batch of tang yuan week before last, it wasn’t because of the approaching Dong Zhi festival, but because I was inspired by Canton Pixie’s comments here. She suggested that if one is trying to avoid wheat, rather than trying complicated gluten-free recipes that attempt to imitate dishes that use wheat flour, it makes more sense to try out Asian recipes based on non-wheat flours.

I mixed 1 cup of glutinous rice flour with a bit less than that of water, judging the consistency by sight and feel. You want a dough that is dry enough to roll out into balls.

Tangyuan dough

I tried out a teaspoon, a melon ball scoop, and a coffee powder measure from Daiso as ways to get even amounts of dough each time.

Tangyuan balls

My shaped balls look rather ugly, I’m afraid :P. When I made tang yuan again today, I made an effort to make them look more smooth and rounded. [22/12/07 update: I figured out that if the dough is too soft, it’s hard to make into even balls, so just make sure the consistency of the dough is correct, with the minimal amount of water added to make a smooth dough.]

Once the dough was shaped, I then popped the tang yuan into a pot of boiling water and when when they floated to the surface, I scooped them into a sieve.

You can store them in the fridge in a covered container, but they will stick to each other. I’m going to experiment with storing them in cold water in the fridge. [22/12/07 update: I’ve decided to store them in the fridge without water, but pour in water to separate them when I want to remove a few, then drain again before returning to the fridge.] Another alternative is to copy the frozen commercial tang yuan, which are sold as uncooked dough, and they won’t be sticky when frozen.

Tangyuan sieve

Meanwhile, I had already prepared a red (azuki) bean soup the day before. Red beans are a nice, safe food low in salicylates :). I soaked some red beans overnight, and the next day, cooked them with fresh water in a mini electric crockpot (700ml volume) until they were soft and mushy (no sugar added). This can be stored in the fridge or frozen. For ease of use if frozen, put them into ice cube trays or single serving-sized containers.

When I was ready to eat, I heated some red bean with extra water as it was very thick and added sugar to taste, although I did eat this sugar-free on a couple of occasions. I put a few tang yuan from the fridge into the pot of red bean soup to heat up, and here is the dish on the table (^_^)…. oh dear, those uneven balls really look ugly!

Tangyuan soup

[24/12/07 update: Have just discovered that in Japan, this dish is eaten cold and called Shiratama zenzai. Read an article about red beans & rice and the recipe here.]

Read my other posts on making glutinous rice balls in hot ginger soup, five-coloured glutinous rice balls and the variety of ways in which you can eat them.