Summer in the United States elicits many fond memories: enjoying warm weather, relaxing with family and friends and for some, the celebration of romance. In China, the most romantic day of the year is Qixi Festival (七夕节), which falls on the 7th day of the lunar July, known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day and celebrated by couples throughout East Asia.
The Qixi festival traces its roots to a piece of beautiful folk tale known as The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd: a man, Niulang (the cowherd, symbolizing the star Altair), and goddess Zhinü (the weaver girl, symbolizing the star Vega) fell in love. Unfortunately, their love was not allowed, thus they were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River (symbolizing the Milky Way Galaxy). Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies would form a bridge to reunite the lovers for one day. Since Han dynasty, people have been celebrating this day in the Qixi Festival.
While chocolate is becoming an increasingly popular gift for this “Chinese Valentine’s Day” due to western influence, red/azuki bean, which is referred to by famed Tang dynasty poet, Wei Wang, as the “love-sickness bean,” is still regarded as a symbol of love in Chinese culture and therefore a very popular Qixi festival ingredient.
In honor of the season of romance in China, we’ve prepared two popular red bean desserts that originated from Guangdong, China and are loved by people all over the world.
We’ll need honey red beans for both recipes, so let’s get that ready first.
- 1.5 cup red bean (soaked by cold water overnight)
- 2 tbs sugar
- 2 tbs honey
- Place drained beans in a saucepan with 3 cups cold water and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Turn down to medium heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour until very soft.
- Discard water, add honey and sugar. Blend well.
- Put in fridge for later use.
Now, introducing Shuangpi Nai (双皮奶), which literally translated is Double Skin Milk Pudding. But don’t let the name fool you – it’s fantastic!
- 1 egg white (beaten)
- 1 tbs sugar
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 2 tbs honey red beans
- Heat milk in a saucepan to a boil.
- Turn off the stove and pour the milk into a small bowl.
- Let the milk cool off until you see the skin form on the surface.
- Poke the “milk skin” with a knife or chopsticks and slowly pour the milk back into the saucepan. Make sure the “milk skin” is left in the bowl.
- Mix the beaten egg white and sugar with the milk in the saucepan. Slowly pour the mix back into the bowl through a filter. Make sure the “milk skin” from this blend is added to bowl.
- Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and steam for 15 minutes.
- Let it cool off and then place honey red bean onto the pudding. Enjoy!
Red Bean & Sago Soup (红豆西米露)
- 1/2 cup sago (soaked in cold water for 20 min)
- 1 cup milk of your choice (cow’s milk, coconut milk, soymilk, or almond milk)
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- Honey red bean
- Chopped seasonal fruits of your choice (optional)
- Place sago in boiling water. Turn down the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Frequently stir the sides and bottom of the saucepan to prevent sticking.
- Turn off the heat, cover the saucepan with the lid, and let it sit for another 10 minutes until the sago has turned fully translucent.
- Rinse the cooked sago with water and place into milk.
- Mix brown sugar and honey red bean to your liking. You could also add some chopped fruits or nuts to add flavor. Enjoy!