Adzuki beans (also called aduki beans) are the small red beans often used in sweet dishes in China, Korea, and Asia. They’re relatives of mung beans, urad dal (which is not actually a lentil), and black eyed peas. But adzukis (in my opinion) are cuter than all their close cousins. I don’t have many recipes that call for adzukis, perhaps partly because I can’t get them here in Germany. I brought some back with me from the U.S. last time I was there though, and decided to use the rest of them to try this savory, Asian-flavored adzuki bean recipe from Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen.
Berley says that adzuki beans don’t need to be soaked. He simply has you add the beans to a pot along with water, a whole onion studded with cloves, ginger slices, unpeeled garlic cloves, mirin, olive oil, and a bay leaf. Berley says the bans should simmer about 1.5 to 2 hours, until completely tender. Then he says to add salt at the end.
I added salt at the beginning, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. I had trouble keeping my beans at a simmer though–they seemed to either be boiling or doing nothing. In the end, my beans seemed to be a mix of somewhat tough skins and completely exploded, overly soft beans. That’s happened to me before with black eyes, and adzuki beans actually remind me a lot of black eyes, in terms of flavor and texture. I always add salt at the beginning of cooking to lentils, black beans, and pintos, with no textural problems. Could adzukis and black eyed peas be different? Or maybe my beans were just old, or my simmer was too high…. Also, my onion ended up falling apart completely, and trying to pick the pieces out was a real pain. I also had to pick out all the ginger slices, the unpeeled garlic cloves, and bay leaf. Odd. I wonder why Berley has you do it that way, rather than just chopping up the onions, ginger, and garlic? I assume it results in a mellower flavor, but couldn’t you simply use less of the chopped aromatics?
Derek didn’t care for the texture or flavor of the beans, but he liked the flavor of the bean cooking broth quite a bit. I thought it was reasonably tasty. But I wasn’t quite sure what we were supposed to do with the beans. Was it supposed to be a soup? Or a sauce for grains? The recipe is unclear.