Due to the mineral-rich soil of Hokkaido, Japanese azuki beans are packed full of vitamins and are lower in fat and oil than any other bean. From the earliest times, the Japanese have eaten, this versatile bean as a healthy addition to their diet. They may be cooked plain as a healthy side dish or cooked with whole grains. Sekihan "red rice" is a colorful steamed mixture of azuki beans and glutinous rice often served as a celebratory dish on holidays and special occasions.
It is also frequently used in making an or "sweet bean paste" as a filling for buns and cakes. When the an of azuki beans is sieved, it is called shiruko, a sweet soup with a type of round dumpling called dango. If an is not sieved, it is called zenzai, a sweet soup served with toasted mochi or rice cakes. Azuki are also using in the making of jell-o like desserts and fancy confections known as Yokan served during Japanese Tea Ceremonies.
For medicinal purposes, Azuki beans can be slowly cooked down into a soup, gravy, or strained into a light tea.
In the West, azuki have become a popular addition to stews, chili and salads. We also use them as an ingredient in baked goods, such as bread, muffins, cookies and brownies. Anyway you decide to cook them, azuki beans offer a incredibly tasty and healthy element to dishes.
Azuki Beans should always be thoroughly washed and rinsed prior to cooking. It is not required that they be soaked, but it does aid in their digestion. Use the soaking juice to add additional flavor and nutrients.
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Wash and rinse azuki beans, then soak overnight in lukewarm water with fu rings. Drain azuki and fu, reserving the soaking water. Squeeze out fu and chop into crouton-size pieces, then set aside. Place kombu strips with azuki beans, along with reserved water and 8 cups spring water in a pot with a tight fitting lid. Bring to a boil then cover, reduce to low and cook for 50 minutes. Add sea salt and cook 10 minutes longer. Finely dice onion and saute with oil until transparent. Stir onions into azuki while slightly mashing the mixture. Next, add the fu, oats, salt and parsley. Cook 30 minutes on low. Serve hot, sprinkle green nori flakes on top as a garnish.
Rinse and soak azuki overnight. Drain beans and reserve soaking water. Place in pot with kombu and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook 1 hour or until azuki are very soft. Remove kombu and set aside 2 heaping Tablespoons of whole azuki beans for topping. In a suribachi puree the beans and add soaking water until you get the consistency of a firm dip. Mix in remaining ingredients except salt and nori flakes. Season with sea salt to taste. Transfer to twin serving bowls and top them each with the whole azuki beans. Sprinkle green nori flakes on top as a garnish. Serve warm or chilled with dipping items.
Hokkaido Azuki Brownies
Makes about 2 Dozen
This scrumptious recipe was given to me while I visited the "Yuki Matsuri" Snow Festival in Hokkaido, Japan. I brought a batch to work this past Valentine's Day and everyone devoured them!
Rinse azuki beans and soak them 8 hours or overnight with chestnuts. Placed the soaked beans and chestnuts in a pressure cooker with water and apple juice and cook under full pressure for 35-40 minutes. If you do not have a pressure cooker, boil for 2 hours, checking the liquid level regularly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When beans and chestnuts are soft, mash them until creamy and blend in all other ingredients, adding walnuts and dried fruit last. Pour/press the batter (it should be somewhere in between a dough and batter consistency). into a cake pan or cookies sheet. Spread it out to be 1/2-3/4-inch thick. Bake for 1 hour, or until top is dark and firm but still a bit spongy to the touch. Cool for a few minutes and cut into squares.
Hokkaido Azuki Tea - Hokkaidoazukicha
This soothing, yet revitalizing tea made from Japanese Azuki beans is good for regulating the kidneys and urinary functions, puffy bags and dark circles under the eyes, dissolving kidney stones, and relieving bowel constipation. This tea is also used in Japan to rid the body of toxins that have gathered in the body by reducing water retention. Azuki beans tea has been effective in recovery from illness, serious fatgue, worryness and muscle pain. The Japanese believe that it helps replenishing new blood cells as well as helps ease menstrual pain. In Japan, when a girl reaches her puberty, Adzuki Bean will be cooked with rice as a traditional sign of blessing for the girl. This is why it is said to give women a rosy, healthy glow on their cheeks. Azuki tea is also good for lactating as it would increase the amount of milk produced by women. Very high in iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, over time, azuki tea will nourish the blood and freshen the eyes.
Soak kombu over night, then finely chop. Add to a pot with azuki beans and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Strain and drink hot. (Beans may be used in making soup or another recipe).