Azuki Beans

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

azuki beans (also transliterated, less correctly, as adzuki) are the small, red beans of the annual plant Vigna angularis which has for long been cultivated in the Orient. China is probably its original home; and it was introduced into Japan some time between the 3rd and 8th centuries.

After the soya bean, this is the legume most widely used in Japanese cookery. It is tender in texture and has a mild, sweet taste. It may be used like any other pulse, and the beans may be ‘popped’ like corn, or dried and ground to produce azuki bean meal. But its main use in Japan is to produce the fresh, sweet bean paste called an which is the basis of many Japanese sweet confections. It is made by boiling and pounding the beans and adding sugar syrup, and comes in two varieties: koshi-an, a smooth purée, and tsubushi-an, in which there are still chunks of bean. The corresponding dried product is sarashi-an.