Wishing everyone a very Happy and Healthy New Year! May 2012 be blessed for you and your family!
In Asia, the color red is always associated with festivities, such as red lanterns, red envelopes, red clothing and red ornaments. Red is also used in food. One of these red foods for festive occasions in Japan is red rice called sekihan, which is usually made with mochi rice and azuki beans. It gets it’s natural red color from the color of the beans, so there is no food coloring. Here in the U.S., mochi rice is sold as “Sweet Rice” and it makes very sticky rice compared to short grain rice. I had never made sekihan before because most of the recipes called for soaking the beans and rice overnight and I always thought it was so difficult to make.
In the local Asian shop here in Washington, these are the items I found for mochi rice, azuki beans and black sesame seeds.
As I was discussing what to cook for New Years, my ikebana teacher said she had a very easy recipe for sekihan, but because it’s not authentic, it’s called akai gohan, which literally means the same thing: red rice. How it differs from the conventional version, is that it blends regular short grain rice with mochi rice. Well, I decided to try it and she’s right! It was easy and considering it was my first attempt, it came out really well. So if I can do it, anyone can! The only down side is, you need a rice cooker. Most or dare I say, all Asians own one as it’s considered a necessity for us. But for those without a rice cooker, this might be a good opportunity to get one! I’d also recommend this recipe for vegetarians, vegans and those who are gluten intolerant because it’s a different version of beans and rice. Here’s Horikawa-sensei’s Red Rice recipe! Thanks sensei!
Red Rice or Akai Gohan
1/3 cup dry azuki beans
2 rice cups mochi or sweet rice – please note that this is a rice cup, which is the cup size that comes with your rice cooker – 180 ml. A regular U.S. cup is 240ml while in Europe it’s 250 ml.
1 rice cup regular short grain Japanese rice
For garnish, mix 1 tablespoon roasted black sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon salt
1. Wash azuki beans, place in pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium low and cook for 35 minutes, until bean are just soft enough to squish between your finders. Drain and reserve the liquid, let liquid cool.
2. In rice pot, wash 2 cups mochi rice and 1 cup regular rice together and strain. Soak in 3 ¼ rice cups (180 ml per cup) of reserved azuki liquid. I only had about 2 rice cups of azuki liquid, so just added water to bring it to the correct amount. Soak for 3 hours.
3. Add the drained azuki and cook in rice cooker as usual.
4. When done, mix well – just be aware that it will be very sticky. Sprinkle with the sesame seed salt blend, called goma shio in Japanese.
Hope you give this a try to bring in the New Year with Red Rice!