Anko, Japanese for azuki bean jam, is the crux of simple treats like oshiruko (azuki bean soup) and more complex recipes like wagashi. For an easy breakfast, anko is delicious (and trendy) on toast, with or without a slick of butter. It’s also a classic topping for toasted mochi and a popular filling for cakes and sweetened breads.
Classic recipes for anko can be complicated, and often include cooking the beans multiple times on the stove. However, contemporary Japanese cooks look no further than their rice cookers for a quick and easy hack. One cycle in a simple rice cooker turns the red beans tender. (In more complicated cookers, the most basic white rice setting works just fine.) After that, all that’s left to do is sweeten to taste. This process creates tsubuan (chunky anko) as opposed to koshian (smooth, strained anko). Once the beans are cooked, make sure there is enough water in the pot for the sugar to dissolve, adding a little more as needed; keep in mind that the warm jam should be slightly runnier than you would like to eat it as it will thicken significantly as it cools.
Do note that the quality of your beans is very important here. Azuki beans that have been sitting on the shelf for too long might not cook as quickly or evenly. Order them directly from a trusted purveyor or buy them from your local Asian grocery store and for the best results, don’t cut the soak-time short. While ordinary white sugar works just fine, a deep muscovado sugar results in an even more delicious adzuki bean jam.
- ½ cups azuki beans, rinsed
- ¼ cups muscovado sugar
- Pinch of salt
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