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Ice Cream with Beans

The other day we made a trip to the local Asian market to pick up a few things we like. One of those "splurges" was for a quart of green tea ice cream. We didn't notice until we got home that we didn't pick up the usual "plain" version. This one had beans (like kidney beans) in it. The beans didn't seem to add anything to the ice cream in terms of flavor or texture. They weren't bad, just a tasteless, textureless distraction. So what is the purpose of the beans?

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  1. Those are sweet red azuki beans.

    They add flavor to the ice cream base, even though the beans themselves may appear to be flavorless.

    1. Azuki beans do have a flavor, but you have to start with a really clean palate in order to detect it. They have that mildly earthy flavor that all beans do, and depending on how incorporated they are into the ice cream, you can also detect the slightly grainy/starchy texture you get from beans.

      21 Replies
      1. re: inaplasticcup

        I guess I prefer the smooth texture of bean-less ice cream.

        1. re: al b. darned

          Haha. I hear ya. It's a contextual thing, I think. I grew up with red bean ice bars and I love them, but I can see how other people think beans belong in soup or chili, not ice cream.

          1. re: inaplasticcup

            @inaplasticcup: I'm one of those people! When I was in Japan, I was really disturbed at how many desserts contained these beans. I thought they were revoting. I'll never forget the time I bought this gorgeous, chocolate-covered eclair-looking thing only to take it home to discover that it was filled with ... you guessed it. It was a heartbreaking experience.

            1. re: woodleyparkhound

              LOL. Not even I like them that way! Actually, those ice bars are the only way I like beans in a dessert context. But it's a very common sweet ingredient in both Japanese and Korean cuisine. Oh to get a mouthful of those cloyingly sweet, mashed up azuki beans in your mochi... :|

              1. re: inaplasticcup

                Do you not like Southern bean pies? Yum.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Why, I've never had one! Goog time...

                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                    Ok. Saw a few recipes, one including pecans and coconuts, which sounds very doable.

                    I think the reason I tend not to like the azuki in Japanese sweets is that it is soooo very sweet and flat tasting. I dislike it less in Korean desserts - shaved ice, dduk (rice cake), porridge - because it's not as sweet, concentrated and compacted.

                    I think I could like a Southern bean pie - probably not the one with 3 whole cups of sugar in it though...

                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                      What about azuki beans in Taiwanese shaved ice? Or in Hawai'ian Shave Ice?

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I'd probably like that ok, as I like it in small doses in Korean shaved ice, along with a sprinkling of millet powder (which would probably make the OP go eww as well :P). What's particular to the Taiwanese and Hawaiian ones?

                        1. re: inaplasticcup

                          What's particular to the Taiwanese and Hawaiian ones?
                          ______________________________

                          I don't know if there's anything particular with Taiwanese or Hawai'ian sweet azuki beans, except I know it would be odd for me to have shaved ice, esp. the Taiwanese kind, without at least a bit of azuki beans.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I think my ideal shaved ice would be the azuki beans (I guess I like them a little more than I thought!), a little bit of condensed milk, a couple spoonfuls of that millet powder, and mochi bits. I guess I'm not veering too off topic since this is still about a frozen dessert with azuki beans, right??? :)))

                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                              "a couple spoonfuls of that millet power,"

                              Would you be thinking of roasted soybean powder? This is what is called "kinako" in Japanese, and is almost always present with sweetened adzuki beans. I have never heard of millet powder...

                              1. re: Tripeler

                                Millet and millet powder are commonly used in Korean cuisine. It has a toasty, nutty flavor and is sometimes used to coat dduk (rice cake), and also to make gruel and porridge as well as a horchata like drink. I imagine roasted soybean powder could have a similar flavor and texture, though.

                                1. re: inaplasticcup

                                  Thanks! I didn't know that about millet powder. If the millet is roasted, likely it tastes very much like roasted soybean powder.

                                  1. re: Tripeler

                                    Well if it does, I suspect I would like kinako very much. :)

                                2. re: Tripeler

                                  I also thought some tteok was made with kinako and not roasted millet powder, although they do taste almost the same.

                                  i am thinking of the pounded rice cake that is usually cut into small little rectangles and than rolled in either crushed mung beans or powdered millet/kinako.

              2. re: inaplasticcup

                Interestingly Koreans have a different word for the red beans vs. beans - Kong and Paht. Paht is often (or even perhaps predominantly) used in sweet applications.

            2. re: inaplasticcup

              Azuki beans do have a sweet flavor. love them

              1. re: scubadoo97

                My mom used to slowly simmer azuki beans with rock sugar and a bit of ginger, until it was thick like custard. Then she removed the ginger, cooled the beans in the fridge overnight and the next day it was like eating red azuki frozen yogurt. Just awesome.

            3. Sweetened azuki beans, whole or as a paste, are kind of like the chocolate of Chinese/Korean/Japanese cuisine. I'd take a sweet or dessert with them subbed for the chocolate any day.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Humbucker

                These didn't seem sweet to me...just beany texture. Having another helping in a few minutes, so I will pay a bit more attention.

              2. I had the same reaction when visiting Singapore when I was a teenager. Relatives served us Ice Kacang, which I think is a very popular dessert, the main ingredients being red beans, shaved ice, and some kind of sweet syrup. I thought it was very strange. They also had sweet corn flavoured ice cream, which boggled my mind.

                My father is from Singapore. He has his avocado mashed roughly in a glass of milk with some sugar. I always thought it looked revolting - have never been able to bring myself to try it.

                I find cultural differences like this fascinating!

                2 Replies
                1. re: ursy_ten

                  Avocado with milk and sugar was one of my favorite cold treats when I was kid. Corn ice cream was rarer, but also appreciated. Sweet beans, however, are where I drew the line and where my palate assimilated to American tastes. My grandmother would often shave ice for us on hot days to make halo halo with ice cream, condensed milk, purple yam, jackfruit, coconut strings, corn and a secret layer of beans, either red beans or chickpeas. Nothing set me off more than that layer of pasty earth ruining the sweet and creamy of my otherwise perfect summertime treat.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    "secret layer of beans..." Love it.

                    And "layer of pasty earth" is a great way to describe them if you don't like them. I'm the same way with the big beans. I actually love mung bean in dessert, can take a little azuki, but when there are pinto/kidney-like beans in my Vietnamese desserts, I usually pick half of them out.

                2. Most of my friends and my husband have the same reaction to the beans in dessert thing. Growing up, we had a bean and lotus root dessert in sweetened coconut milk and I'd always steal some to freeze. The beans get wonderfully chewy when they are freshly frozen in pieces and they do give a slightly beany scent to ice cream. Now some of them love the ice cream! If you keep it and get the green tea ice cream, you can offer both choices to guests! :)