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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.

Rice Cooker Anko
Upgrade your morning toast with this sweet azuki bean jam.
Time: 24 hours, 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • ½ cups azuki beans, rinsed
  • ¼ cups muscovado sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. To a medium bowl, add the beans and enough cool water to cover by 2 inches. Set aside to soak for at least 8 and up to 12 hours.
  2. Drain the beans, discarding their soaking liquid; rinse well. Transfer the beans to a rice cooker, then cover with 1¼ cups of fresh, cool water. Cover with the lid and push the rice cooker button to cook for 1 cycle according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Once the cycle is done, uncover the rice cooker and test the beans with a spoon. They should be soft and tender throughout. (If the beans are sitting in more than ¼ cup of water, transfer them, along with their cooking liquid, to a small pot, set on the stove, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the liquid has reduced down to about ¼ cup. Conversely, if the beans are dry when you open the cooker, add a few tablespoons of water to moisten.) Add the sugar and salt. With a wooden spoon, vigorously stir the beans until most of them have broken apart and you have the consistency of a chunky jam. Set the anko aside to cool to room temperature, then serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container. The jam will keep well in the fridge for up to 1 week in the fridge or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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