Living in Hawaii, we are exposed to many cultures, especially the Japanese culture. As we welcome the New Year in Hawaii, many families incorporate cultural foods in their celebrations, and in typical ‘Umeke-style, we are focusing on a particular food that is not only used in New Year celebrations, but is tasty as well as healthy for you.
One New Years dish is Sekihan or “red rice,” due to the coloring of the rice when it is cooked with the azuki bean. The azuki beans are cooked with sticky, sweet rice and topped with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds as a garnish. Sekihan is used at celebrations such as New Years, birthdays, weddings, etc. because the red color is symbolic of happiness in Japan.
Let’s look at the azuki bean itself. This small red-brown bean is sweet and nutty and “a nutritional powerhouse, rich in protein, fiber and folic acid” according to the Livestrong website. It’s used in many Japanese dishes like sekihan, as well as made into a paste and added to the center of desserts like mochi and manju. There is also a sweet dessert soup called zenzai, where it can be served either warm or cold.
You’ll see that we’ve added sekihan to our rice selection, if you haven’t tried it yet, give it a go!