With my birthday approaching soon, my father and I decided to drive to the H-Mart together which is located about 50 minutes from our house but is the closest Asian grocery store. Our goal was to find and purchase Taro ice cream (which was successful), but we had both also noticed the heavy prevalence of Red Bean flavored treats. Having never tried Red Bean before, we decided to splurge on a pint of maeda-en's Red Bean Azuki Flavored Ice Cream, which we already lost the receipt for but was priced between $3-4.
Upon opening the pint, I noticed red bean pieces across the top and as I began dishing some out there was definitely no doubt that they were very generous with the amount of bean mix-ins. After taking several close whiffs to the ice cream, I was unable to successfully pick up any scent.
The first four ingredients listed are milk, cream, sugar, and cooked red beans, so this seems like a pretty high quality, authentic pint of ice cream. Upon scooping it there's also no doubt that it's very creamy, smooth, and dense, despite being only 140 calories per 1/2 cup serving.
As I took my first spoonful, however, I was very repulsed. While I can understand the appeal of red beans, I don't at all understand the concept of using them in an ice cream. If I had to compare it to something more people are familiar with, I would compare it to a Refried Bean ice cream, which thankfully doesn't exist as far as I'm concerned. I contemplated throwing the rest out after my first spoonful, but I was determined to finish my small bowl in an effort to maybe pick up on some more depth I may have overlooked with my untrained American taste buds. Unfortunately, this depth never emerged and instead I found myself caught up in regret and self pity as I had imagined myself spitting out each spoonful immediately after taking another. It had a slight sweetness to it, but other than that I really can't ignore the bean dominance here. The chunks thankfully didn't have a more dominant taste than the base, so the spoonfuls containing more beans didn't taste any stronger than the base itself; my guess would be that they were just there for visual appeal.
All in all, I will never be purchasing this ice cream in the future nor would I ever consider recommending it to anyone. That being said, the texture and ingredients list were fairly impressive. Perhaps this ice cream may be enjoyable to someone with more experience with ethnic foods and this entire review may just be my American bias, but unless you're familiar with red bean I would suggest staying away from having ice cream be the way you expose yourself. I assign this ice cream a D rating, not lower only because again, while I didn't enjoy the taste at all, the texture was pleasant and I respect this company for their generosity regarding the mix-ins and quality ingredients rather than just using artificial red bean flavoring.
As an added note, I could totally see Ben & Jerry's taking this to worldwide markets and mixing it up with shredded cheese, beef, taco shell pieces, sour cream swirls, and passing it off as some wacky taco flavor.
Where Caitlin Found It: H-Mart
Caitlin's Grade: D