21 July 2011
i've been fascinated with wagashi (和菓子) for the longest time. dainty morsels of bite-sized japanese confectioneries used in traditional tea ceremony, they're just so beautiful and intriguing. looks aside, i really like what goes into them - matcha, purple sweet potato, black sesame, pumpkin, sakura etc. so before venturing into any of the wagashi recipes, i figured that i should start with the basic filling. since koshi-an/tsubu-an (adzuki red bean paste) is so common and readily available, i decided to make the white bean paste ( しろあん or 白餡) instead. so far i don't think i've seen shops carrying it in singapore, or maybe i just haven't looked hard enough.
lima beans or navy beans are most commonly used to make shiro-an and i used bob's red mill's lima beans for this. the reason why i chose lima beans is coz the skins are easier to remove after soaking and they taste better (more buttery). the only thing is the paste will not be very white as compared to navy beans but the taste will not be affected.
i must say its a good experience and great fun making my own paste from scratch but seriously, its ALOT of work. imagine having to soak the beans for 12 hrs, then boil them for about 1.5 hrs, put them thru a sieve and add water to the mixture, wait for the paste to settle at the bottom and pour the water away and repeat that 3x. then you'll hv to pour the mixture onto a cheese cloth to drain away the excess water and then you can cook it in sugar. the whole process is just OMG, if you ask me lol. i did notice that some western recipes like the one i saw on martha stewart's website omit the steps of soaking, straining & "rinsing" the paste with water so its less of a hassle but i wonder if the taste will be the same. im also pretty proud of myself for not using a food processor but painstakingly put the mixture thru a sieve just like how the traditional ones should be done.
tastewise, i really really liked it! even though its basically just two ingredients - lima beans & sugar and the beans isn't even an asian ingredient in the first place, i was surprised at how familiar and oriental this tastes. it feels like something i often eat in mooncakes or buns. one thing though, since making this is so much work, i recommend making a bigger batch then separate them into smaller portions and freeze.