A Malaysian Hygge: Red Bean Soup

Red Beans

I have a sudden craving for hearty stews. To have in bed. While it’s snowing outside. But hey guess what, I’m in Malaysia, where there’s no winter, no snow days, no warm fireplaces to sidle up to. Just blazing heat and tropical thunderstorms all year round, which actually isn’t a bad thing, except for the lack of those cosy, hygge wintry moments which I’ve grown to adore in my years abroad. Ahh winter I do miss you! 

To somewhat counter this nostalgia though, I’ve spent late mornings in Malaysia snuggled up in bed under layers of blankets with the air-conditioning on full blast, absent-mindedly flicking through Pinterest photos of stews, daydreaming about Asian red-braises and dark, winey bourguignons, my mom’s Shaoxing braised sea cucumber and Danish cabbage stews. (Dear Daniel C. (a.k.a. Danish) from Blue Hill, if you’re reading this, that pork and cabbage stew you made for family meal was the stuff of dreams.)

red bean soup

Alas, these Pinterest binges never get close to feeling like the real thing, that is until I found something that’s almost as heart-warming and blissful, a truly Malaysian version of stew in winter – red bean soup on dreamy, overcast Malaysian mornings! Yes, you heard right. Red bean soup.

On a stretch, I think of red bean soup as really just a dessert version of a stew. :P Granted, proper, meaty savoury stews will forever have my heart, but the next to zero effort needed to make this makes it a more-than-worthy substitute, especially on those extra lazy weekend mornings. So you can set the soup to boil and go back to bed, and an hour later, you're all ready to hygge your rainy weekend away with sweet warm soup.

Better yet, this recipe only requires three ingredients – red beans, sugar and coconut milk (four if you count water).As for extra ingredients, you’ll find tons of online recipes with tapioca pearls, ginkgo nuts, tang yuan (汤圆), or orange zest added into the soup. While these additions are nice and all (except orange zest which I think even in small amounts overpowers the taste of red beans, but maybe that’s just me), you could honestly do without them and end up with an equally great, if not better soup, one with just the pure unadulterated flavor of red bean. Mmm. Don’t skimp on the coconut milk though; It really makes all the difference! :)

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Red Bean Soup


  • 500g dried red beans
  • 1.5 L water, less if you prefer a thicker soup
  • 100g sugar
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk, plus more to garnish
  • 3 pandan leaves, optional


  1. Wash the beans and soak them in water for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
  2. Drain the beans. Measure out the water in a pot, add the soaked beans to the pot, and bring to a boil. From there, leave to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour (30 - 40 minutes if the beans were soaked overnight).
  3. When the beans are cooked to your desired texture (I like mine super mushy in a thick soup), add in the sugar and stir until dissolved. Then add the coconut milk and pandan leaves if you have them.
  4. Serve in a bowl, with coconut milk drizzled on top. Enjoy (in bed or otherwise)!