Certainly, Buettner notes that beans are a central element of meals consumed in all five Blue Zones. This consists of Okinawa, Japan, the place you’ll discover all kinds of beans, together with soybeans, fermented beans (nattō), and mung beans, to call just a few. One other extremely standard alternative? Crimson beans, in any other case often known as azuki (or adzuki) beans.
To be taught extra about this standard Japanese staple, its cultural significance, and the most effective methods to eat ‘em, we caught up with Namiko Chen, a Yokohama, Japan native and the founding father of the broadly acclaimed Japanese cooking platform, Just One Cookbook, who shared her go-to, two-ingredient, purple bean-rice dish filled with longevity boosting benefits.
What’s the importance of purple beans in Japanese tradition?
In response to Chen, purple beans (aka azuki beans) have been part of Japanese delicacies for hundreds of years. “Azuki beans are stated to have been launched from China across the third century, 300 B.C. to 201 B.C. There’s additionally one other concept that azuki beans have been grown in Japan within the Jōmon interval, 14,000 to 300 B.C.,” Chen says. (Learn: Crimson beans have been round for a very very long time.)
Though, lately, many worth azuki beans for his or her dietary worth and scrumptious style, Chen notes that additionally they as soon as carried further cultural significance. “They have been deemed a useful talisman because the purple coloration of the azuki beans was thought to assist keep off evil spirits—and have been additionally seen as a type of medication attributable to their excessive dietary worth,” Chen says. What’s extra, she explains that as Buddhism unfold to Japan, consuming animals didn’t align with this spiritual perception. As such, azuki beans have been used instead of meat in lots of cases.
These days, you’ll find azuki beans in many alternative Japanese dishes. “Crimson beans, or what we name azuki beans, are primarily utilized in numerous sweets in Japanese delicacies,” says Chen. “These conventional sweets referred to as wagashi are principally stuffed with or accompanied by candy azuki bean paste referred to as anko or an. The azuki beans are boiled, mashed, sweetened with sugar, after which used as fillings in daifuku mochi [red bean-filled mochi], manju [red bean steamed cake], and dorayaki [red bean pancakes].”
And though you’ll discover azuki principally in candy preparations, there’s one standard savory dish Chen likes to make: a purple bean rice referred to as sekihan.
What’s sekihan (Japanese purple bean rice)?
It’s true: You’ll usually discover purple beans in Japanese sweets for essentially the most half. Nonetheless, Chen notes that sekihan is one exception. “In Japan, we make purple bean rice referred to as sekihan—or osekihan—on auspicious events,” she says. “The purple coloration of the rice symbolizes happiness and prosperity. It’s a standard dish served on many glad and celebratory events, resembling Japanese New Yr and Youngsters’s Day, the beginning of a child, birthdays, graduations, and weddings.”
To make this easy dish, you solely want two elements: Rice and purple beans. And though the ingredient listing sounds easy, the method of constructing the dish is barely extra advanced. “For the rice, it’s crucial to make use of Japanese short-grain glutinous rice referred to as mochigome whenever you make sekihan; don’t use different Asian long-grain glutinous rice varieties,” Chen says. In response to her, utilizing mochigome will guarantee essentially the most “genuine final result” within the closing dish, as that is the variability that is most generally utilized in Japanese cooking. “Do not forget that long-grain and short-grain varieties have completely different flavors, textures, and shapes when cooked,” she says.
Happily, one of these rice can also be broadly out there in the USA. “You will discover mochigome at Japanese grocery shops, different Asian grocery shops, and a few well-stocked supermarkets. I normally get native, California-grown, natural mochigome at my native Japanese grocery store referred to as Nijiya. It’s also possible to discover Koda Farms and Hakubai manufacturers at on-line retailers like Amazon and Instacart,” Chen says.
One other key level is to rinse any extra starch and impurities in three to 4 modifications of water till the water runs clear, in accordance with Chen. “Once you do that, you have to be very light, as mochigome is fragile and may break simply,” she says. “Utilizing a big bowl and never a sieve helps to maintain the grains from breaking as you rinse them.” For a step-by-step rinsing rice tutorial, you possibly can try Chen’s in-depth guide.
However for a fast overview, you may wish to use your finger to agitate the moist rice utilizing round motions and use minimal quantities of water to permit the grains to rub in opposition to one another for higher cleansing. “Utilizing little or no water whereas washing additionally retains the rice from absorbing the impurities discovered within the cloudy rinsing water,” Chen says. With a bit persistence (and some rinses later), the cloudy water will ultimately run clear. “After the ultimate rinse, you’ll drain the rice nicely in a fine-mesh strainer and shake off the remaining water,” she says.
For even simpler rice rinsing, Chen recommends investing in a Japanese-style bowl specialised for this activity. They’ve a mild and rounded bowl form however with aspect and backside drainers. “You need to use one in the event you’re frightened about dropping rice grains when pouring off the rinsing water from a daily bowl,” she says.
At this level, Chen says you’ll have to pre-soak the glutinous rice (for about 8–12 hours) provided that you’ll be steaming it—not when cooking it in a pot stovetop or an electrical rice cooker. To prep the rice to soak, you need to use any sort of bowl. The bottom line is merely to make sure the rice is roofed with loads of water so it could possibly soak up it whereas remaining submerged on the finish of the soaking interval. “This ensures a fair soak for all of the rice grains,” Chen says.
As for the beans, Chen says it’s not essential to soak beans hours earlier than cooking them regardless of what the packaging might say. “Whereas soaking the beans for a number of hours or in a single day does assist scale back the cooking time barely, it doesn’t make a major distinction. Due to this fact, my sekihan recipe doesn’t name for soaking the beans forward of time,” she says.
Nonetheless, what does make a distinction is how recent the beans are. “Search for dried azuki beans which can be recent so they may turn into tender whenever you cook dinner them. Outdated beans received’t turn into tender irrespective of how lengthy you cook dinner them,” Chen says. In response to her, one of the simplest ways to verify if the beans are recent (or previous) is by inspecting the expiration date on the packaging. “Purchase azuki beans which can be just lately packaged and much off from their expiration date,” she says.
What’s extra, Chen suggests shopping for azuki beans imported from Hokkaido, Japan—the most important producer of one of these bean—each time doable. “Japanese grocery shops promote completely different manufacturers of azuki bean packages, and they’re usually all from Hokkaido. If you’re searching for azuki beans elsewhere, it‘s good to verify the place the azuki beans are from,” she says. That stated, if you cannot discover Hokkaido beans, azuki from Tamba in Hyogo prefecture (that are recognized to be premium varieties in accordance with Chen) are a fantastic possibility, too.
Sekihan (purple bean rice) recipe
Yields 5 servings
1/3 cup azuki beans
1 1/2 cup water (for cooking beans #1)
3 1/2 cup water (for cooking beans #2)
2 1/4 cups candy rice/glutinous rice (mochigome)
1/2 Tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt (use half as a lot for desk salt and two-thirds for sea salt by quantity)
1 Tbsp toasted black sesame seeds (or use gomashio, which is a mix of black sesame seeds and salt)
1/2 Tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt for serving
To make the beans:
- Rinse azuki beans within the strainer beneath chilly working water and drain nicely.
- Put the azuki beans in a big pot (with a tight-fitting lid) and 1 1/2 cup water.
- Convey it to a boil over medium warmth. As soon as boiling, flip off the warmth and drain the beans over the strainer.
- Put the beans again within the pot and add 3 1/2 cup water. Convey it to a boil.
- As soon as it’s boiling, flip down the warmth to low/simmer. Cowl and cook dinner for 25–half-hour. (Notice: The beans will proceed to cook dinner with glutinous rice, so they need to be tender however do not should be 100-percent cooked at this stage. I personally favor the beans to have some texture as an alternative of mushy. Please modify the cooking time for the beans accordingly.)
- Examine the doneness of the beans by mashing one bean between your fingers. (As I favor the beans to have some texture, once I check the bean, the feel ought to nonetheless be considerably agency, not fully delicate. Take away from the warmth and let cool to room temperature for roughly one hour. Beans will proceed to cook dinner with the remaining warmth.)
To measure the rice cooking liquid:
- As soon as the azuki beans and azuki-cooking liquid come to room temperature, separate them. You need to have 540 milliliters (about two-and-a-quarter cups) of cooking liquid. If you do not have sufficient, add water to have precisely 540 milliliters.
To make the rice on the stovetop:
- In a big bowl, place the candy rice (glutinous rice). Add water to submerge it and rapidly discard the water.
- Add water and gently rinse the rice three to 4 extra occasions till the water is obvious. In contrast to common white rice, candy rice breaks simply, so be light whenever you rinse.
- For one final time, add water to the bowl and drain the rice into the strainer. Drain and shake off the water nicely.
- Add the drained rice and 540 milliliters of the azuki-cooking liquid to the pot or donabe (Japanese cooking pot).
- Add salt and blend nicely collectively.
- Add the beans on high and evenly distribute however strive to not combine with rice. Rice cooks evenly when it is not combined with different elements.
- Cowl the lid and begin cooking on medium-high warmth till boiling roughly eight to 10 minutes.
- As soon as boiling, scale back the warmth to low/simmer and cook dinner for 10-12 minutes. Take away from the warmth (so the underside does not get burnt) and let it steam for added 20 minutes.
- Combine black sesame seeds and salt. That is referred to as gomashio.
- Stir the rice gently. Insert the rice scooper perpendicularly, lifting up the rice from the underside.
- Then break it up with the rice scooper perpendicularly, as in the event you’re slicing it. Repeat the identical course of till all the underside of the pot is combined. Serve in particular person rice bowls and sprinkle gomashio on high. Take pleasure in!
Cannot get sufficient beans? Attempt these black bean brownies:
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