Red Bean Porridge (Patjuk)
The Dongzhi (冬至, Winter Solstice) Festival is coming next week on December 22, 2018. The festival is performed by Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans to celebrate the return of longer daylight hours and ultimately an increase of positive energy flowing in. As part of the festivities, families get together to make tang yuan(汤圆). Tang yuan is glutinous rice balls that are served in sweet soup or savory broth. These small round balls symbolize family unity. It becomes an important seasonal food during a time of year when the seasons begin to the warmth of spring.
On this day, my family usually makes colorful glutinous rice balls with peanut filling and served with sweet ginger-infused syrup. However, I was trying to make something similar but different from the usual. I noticed that there is a type of porridge consisted of red beans with glutinous rice balls called Patjuk or Red Bean Porridge in Korea. What I like about Patjuk is how thick and rich the consistency is, compared to the Chinese red bean soup which is more soupy. The red bean porridge is simply mild, earthy, and soothing, while the glutinous rice balls is pleasantly chewy and gives more texture to the porridge. Although the recipe went through many processes, from all of that boiling, smashing, and straining, but the taste of Red Bean Porridge really bring the warmth in my heart.
Patjuk is made from red beans (pat, 팥) that are cooked slowly until they form a porridge and then served with glutinous rice balls (sae-al-sim, 새알심). Patjuk is is a seasonal food eaten on Dongji (동지, Winter Solstice) in Korea. The winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon marking the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. On this day, they believed the day has been considered to be full of negative energy. Therefore, Dongji marked the actual beginning of the New Year, because the hours of daylight got longer after Dongji.
In Korea, they customarily ate red bean porridge on the day of Winter Solstice. They believed the color of red bean symbolized positive energy and has the power to expel negative energy. Meanwhile, the glutinous rice balls that looks like small bird eggs symbolize new life, freshness, and prosperity. Therefore, people believed that they would be able to ward off evil spirits by eating red bean porridge on Dongji. According to tradition, families also placed red bean porridge in the ancestral shrine, around the house, on the main gate, and the outer walls of the house in the belief that this will keep evil spirits and misfortune at bay.
Tips on Making Patjuk
1. Puree the cooked beans
The cooked adzuki beans should be traditionally mashed through a strainer to discard the skins hard beans and achieve a smooth and velvety texture. This process is pretty laborious. Therefore, I recommend to firstly puree the bean in a blender before straining the bean to make the whole process easier.
2. Add a little bit of water at a time when making glutinous rice balls
Glutinous rice balls are made by mixing glutinous rice flour, salt, sugar, and warm water into a dough. This step is little bit tricky because rice flour behaves like cornflour. A little too much water will make the dough too runny, while too much flour will make the dough cracks. Add warm water a little at a time to glutinous rice flour and knead until the dough comes together. The dough should be shiny and has texture like play-doh. After that, take some dough in your palms and roll it into a 3/4-inch ball. Repeat until all of the dough is made into small balls. Sprinkle some glutinous rice flour over them as you go so they do not stick together.
3. How to serve red bean porridge
Patjuk is served and eaten hot so that the glutinous rice balls would not harden. Patjuk can be eaten as a meal rather than as a dessert. You can choose to make it savoury or sweet based on your preference. The savory one is usually eaten as a meal with kimchi or dongchimi (radish water kimchi). Meanwhile, the sweet version is enjoyed as a snack or dessert. It is often topped with pine nuts, boiled chestnuts, and a sprinkle of cinnamon powder.
4. Storing red bean porridge
Red bean porridge is easily spoiled. It is better to refrigerate the porridge as soon as it cools down if not eaten right away. Heat it on the stove or in microwave when you want to eat it.
Red Bean Porridge (Patjuk)
- 1 cup adzuki beans (200 gr)
- 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour (75 gr)
- 2 tsp salt
Glutinous Rice Balls
- 2 cups glutinous rice flour (300 gr)
- 1 cup warm water (250 ml)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
Wash and strain the adzuki beans. In a large pot, add adzuki beans and pour water until 1 inch above the beans. Bring it to a boil over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Drain the beans and discard the water.
Return the beans to the pot with 5 cups of fresh water. Cover, and simmer over medium low heat until the beans are soft and easily breakable for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the heat, and let it cool for about 20 minutes.
Puree the beans along with the liquid. Pour the puree over a coarse strainer over a large bowl until hard beans and skins remain in the strainer, You may add some water if the puree is too thick.
In a medium bowl, combine glutinous rice flour, sugar, salt, and warm water until incorporated. When cool enough to handle, knead by hand for 5 minutes until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into 3/4-inch small balls. Sprinkle some glutinous rice flour over them so they do not stick together.
Put the bean puree back into the pot. If there are less than 8 cups worth, add more water to make it 8 cups. Boil bean puree over medium high heat.
Add glutinous rice balls. Add salt and let it cook until all glutinous rice balls float to the surface while stirring occasionally. Mix 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour and 1 cup of water in a small bowl and pour it into the boiling mixture, stirring frequently until the mixture thicken. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.
Best serve hot.
Serve with a small bowl of sugar or salt so that diners can adjust their taste.
Mine is topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon, brown sugar, and toasted sesame seeds.