March SOS Kitchen Challenge Reveal: a bean of many names

Merry March! A new month brings a new SOS Kitchen Challenge, the monthly recipe event hosted by Ricki and me celebrating vegan, sugar-free, natural recipes using a featured ingredient. Rather than focus on something obvious like oats, cabbage, or potatoes this month - the blogosphere loves St. Patrick's Day - we've gone a different direction entirely. This month's food goes by multiple names, has multiple sweet and savory applications, and can either be eaten cooked or raw and sprouted.

Here's a photographical hint:

[image source]

Did you guess correctly? This month's SOS Kitchen Challenge features none other than the adzuki bean, also known as azuki, aduki, asuki, adsuki, field pea, red bean, Teinsin red bean, or feijao.  No matter what name you prefer, one thing is certain: the adzuki bean is marvelously versatile, nutritious, and delicious.  I love most beans dearly, but adzuki beans truly top my list of favorites. 

A Bit About the Bean

Adzuki beans are thought to originate in China, and are prized in Asian cuisine, used in sweet and savory applications, and often used for celebratory and festival dishes. These dark red beans are relatively small, with a distinctive white ridge on one side. They cook quickly, and are more easily digested than many other beans.  

The most common use of adzuki beans in Asian cuisines - especially Japanese - is in sweet drinks, dessert soups, and various buns and pastries stuffed with sweetened red bean paste.  Western cuisine has adopted the adzuki bean most commonly in savory applications, such as soups, stews, casseroles, and burritos. Adzuki beans are excellent in vegan dishes, as their texture is hearty and somewhat "meat-like".  Adzuki beans are also very delicious when soaked and left to sprout - azuki bean sprouts are crunchy and absolutely delicious in salads, stir fries, and wraps. 

Adzuki beans have a rich, earthy, nutty, and sweet flavor, and rich red color when cooked.  They are complimented by warm spices such as ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, or chile powder, and go well with other ingredients such as tamari, miso, onion, coconut milk, rice, yam, sweet potato, squash or pumpkin.

Nutritional Benefits

Adzuki beans, like all legumes, are an excellent source of nutrition. The website Knowing Food has a great write up about the adzuki bean, featuring this information: 

Adzuki beans are a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc copper, manganese and B vitamins. As a high-potassium, low-sodium food they can help reduce blood pressure and act as a natural diuretic. When combined with grains, beans supply high quality protein, which provides a healthy alternative to meat or other animal protein. 

Like most beans, adzuki beans are rich in soluble fibre. This type of fibre provides bulk to the stool and binds to toxins and cholesterol aiding in their elimination from the body. 

In Japan adzuki beans are known for their healing properties and are used to support kidney and bladder function. Gillian McKeith is a huge fan of the adzuki bean and refers to it as the 'weight loss' bean as it low in calories and fat but high in nutrients.

source- Adzuki Bean: Health Benefits and Nutrition Information on Knowing Food

Additionally, the The Ayurvedic Cookbook by U. Desai and Amadea Morningstar states that adzuki beans have excellent ability to rebuild adrenal function and kidney energy. 

Adzuki Bean & Yam Hash, image and recipe from Whole Life Nutrition [image source]

How to Cook Dry Adzuki Beans

Cooking dry adzuki beans is easy and economical.  It is also often a necessity, as canned adzuki beans are not always readily available. Eden Foods makes organic canned adzuki beans that are cooked with kombu and packed in BPA-free cans, so if you can't cook your own beans, those are a great option. But if you have access to dry adzuki beans and have the time to plan ahead, I'd recommend simply cooking your own. 

To cook beans, you must soak them first to rehydrate. Soak 1 part beans overnight in ample water. Drain and simmer on the stovetop in 4 parts water for 40 minutes to an hour, until tender but still intact (if adding salt, add at end of cooking). If you have a pressure cooker, follow instructions in your pressure cooker instruction manual.  Then drain beans and use as desired, rinsing as necessary. Reserve bean cooking liquid to use as a broth or nourishing warm drink (it is loaded with vitamins and minerals!).

How To Enter the Challenge

If you are interested in trying your hand at cooking or baking with the adzuki bean this month, join us in this month's challenge! To enter, simply cook up a new recipe–either sweet OR savory (or both)–using adzuki beans, following the usual SOS guidelinesfor ingredients and submission requirements.  Then submit it by linking up to your blog post with the linky tool, below.  Be sure to add a link to this page on your post, and if you wish, include the SOS logo. 

Your recipe will be displayed on both Ricki's and my blog in the Linky, and will be featured in a recipe roundup at the end of this month.  We look forward to more of your delicious, creative, enthusiastic entries this month!  

March SOS Kitchen Challenge: Adzuki Beans