Normally one wouldn’t put sweet and beans together in the same sentence, unless we’re talking about Boston Baked beans, which is delicious but also laden with bacon fat, molasses, and brown sugar. There’s also those little old-fashion candy coated peanuts.
There is a naturally sweet little bean that exists and doesn’t require a ton of sugar in its preparation. The deliciously sweet Adzuki bean is widely grown throughout East Asia and the Himalayas. The most commonly consumed variety comes from Northeast Asia and has a pleasing deep reddish-brown-color. It goes by a few different names like Aduki, Azuki, or just red bean.
Asian cultures like to cook these beans down with a little sugar to make a paste used in desserts. The Chinese use it for mooncakes and the Japanese use it for dorayaki, among other delights.
I find Adzuki beans to be quite versatile, lending themselves to sweet or savory dishes. You can pair them with rice or quinoa, mash them for dips and spreads, or put them in soups and stews. I like them best when paired with other naturally sweet veggies like winter squash and sweet corn.
Why would one want to eat a sweet bean? From a Chinese medical perspective, when we crave sweets and eat foods that are nourishing and strengthen our spleens, we both satisfy our craving in a healthy way, and combat the root cause of the craving: spleen deficiency. When we reach for a candy bar or donut, we momentarily curb our sugar craving, but weaken the spleen, which means sugar cravings will only come back stronger.
Nutritionally speaking, the Adzuki bean affects the liver, spleen, and kidneys. It strengthens the spleen, benefits the kidneys, helps manage blood glucose in diabetes, counteracts toxins, and reduces dampness. The high fiber content (17grams per serving) allows one to feel full and sated. The FDA notes that this little bean is very low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. It is also a good source of phosphorus, potassium and copper, and a very good source of folate, manganese, and protein (17 grams).
Here’s how to prepare the beans:
Cooking time: 45-60 minutes
Liquid per cup of legume: 4 cups
How to cook adzuki beans: Soak 1-2 hours. Drain water and replace with fresh, cold water for cooking. Place on stove and bring to a boil in a pot with a lid. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, tilting the lid slightly to allow steam to escape, and leave to cook for up to an hour, or until tender.
Check-out our blog next Friday for some recipes calling for these delicious little beans!