Azuki bean porridge, Pat Juk, is a traditional staple of Korean cuisine, eaten year round at all times of day. The sweet variety, Dan Pat Juk, is prepared and shared with neighbors and friends on "Little Lunar New Year" which takes place on the winter solstice. The reddish color of the porridge is meant to ward off evil spirits, and as in many cultures, eating sweet foods expresses the hope of a sweet year to come.
Savory or sweet, Azuki porridge is a sublime comfort food which is highly nutritious and simple to make. This interpretation of Dan Pat Juk requires few ingredients and the only active labor involved is the time it takes to blend the cooked beans into a smooth porridge. Traditional Korean recipes call for rock sugar as the sweetener; I've substituted medjul dates. For a sweeter dish, maple syrup may be added to taste.
Dan Pat Juk is very filling; this recipe yields roughly six modest servings. The flavor of the juk mellows with rest, so don't hesitate to make extra for later use. To store cooked beans safely, place in clean glass jars with tightly fitting lids while still very hot. I like to use small single serving sized glass canning jars for this purpose. Handled this way, beans will keep well in the fridge for up to five days.
2.5 cups azuki beans, soaked for about 6- 8 hours*
4-5 large medjul dates, pitted and sliced in half
sea salt to taste
1 or 2 tablespoons maple syrup to taste (optional)
mint leaves for garnish
pine nuts for garnish
Drain and rinse beans thoroughly in running water.
Place beans in a heavy bottomed pot and add enough fresh water to cover by about two inches.
Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over a medium- low flame for one hour or more.
Stir beans occasionally, adding water if they are not covered by liquid.
Beans are done when one is easily mashed between thumb and forefinger.
Remove pot from heat, stir in dates, cover and allow to rest until cool enough to blend.
Blend beans in batches in blender, adding cooking liquid or small amounts of fresh water as needed, until porridge is velvety smooth.
Return porridge to pot, reheat thoroughly and add sea salt to taste.
One or more tablespoons of maple syrup may be added to taste.
Serve dan pat juk in small preheated ceramic bowls.
Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and a sprinkling of pine nuts.
Store remaining porridge in glass jars in fridge for up to five days.
Reheat thoroughly for a quick, warming and energizing meal.
*A note about soaking legumes: Soaking legumes is not a complicated affair but it involves some planning. Soak beans overnight or put them in to soak early in the morning. If you've soaked beans for several hours but must postpone cooking, drain them and keep in the fridge for up to another day.