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I can say, honestly, I had no idea what Sekihan was until about a week ago. Which is sad, because I should know more about Okinawan culture! 🙁 Oh well, you learn new things everyday, right? And this Sekihan recipe turned out awesome!
Sekihan is really, really simple– it is. Seriously. It really is just bean rice. It is bean rice. But it’s used to celebrate special holidays or events, so Sekihan is important in the Okinawan culture.
When I looked over a Sekihan recipe, I noticed that they didn’t soak the beans… But I decided to. It just helps to soak beans and stuff like that for a while before cooking it, to save on energy and firepower. To each their own, I guess. I soaked it overnight.
Hmm, now I just thought of something. You know, I never knew there was such a huge difference (appearance-wise) between mochi rice and regular rice! I’ve never had to use mochi rice before, so this came as a big surprise to me that mochi rice is way different than regular rice. Did you guys know that?! :O
If you like mochi then you may want to try my green tea Daifuku mochi recipe too 😉
By the way, when the azuki beans are first being cooked, the water and the beans look sooooooo pretty. I mean, look at it! The reddish-brown color, like brick… I always like when food has a unique color, don’t you?
Anyway, enough with my blabbering… Please enjoy the recipe! And if you want to learn why sekihan is so important to both Japanese and Okinawan culture, please read below.
What is Sekihan? (The Story Behind Sekihan)
First of all, what is Sekihan? Sekihan is a rice dish that is mixed with mochi rice and regular rice, along with azuki beans that results in a brick colored rice that’s aesthetically pleasing and is consumed to have good luck. In Uchinaguchi (Okinawan language), sekihan is also known as aka’ubun.
In both Okinawa and Japan, sekihan is a symbol and food item for good luck. The reddish color the rice receives from the beans closely relates to Japan’s ideology that the color red means happiness. Sekihan is served on birthdays, weddings, and holidays to celebrate and bring forth good fortune. It’s so important in both cultures that the phrase, “Let’s have sekihan” can be implied as, “Let’s celebrate.” A very symbolic dish, indeed!
But what’s the story behind this dish? Why is it that sekihan became popular? Why is it considered a good luck food item? Well, it all started with a folktale:
There once lived a man who lived peacefully with his family in the Kume Village of Naha, Okinawa. One day, as he was going about his business, he heard a thundering voice that stated that his grandfather’s wrongdoings need to be justified and that he would receive the punishment– death by lightning bolt. Scared, the man ran to the local fortune teller to tell of this ominous event, who grimly replied that the messenger was none other than the Thunder God himself, and that mortal beings had no control over the Kami’s (God’s) decision. If the Thunder God foretold the man shall die, then he shall die.
Saddened and scared, the man ran home to tell the news to his wife and kids.
After telling them the grim news, the man feared for his wife, kids, and friends around the area. If lightning were to strike the area, it could cause great damage, he reasoned. With a heavy heart, he kissed his wife goodbye and went to an uninhabited place of the land to die. Waiting for his inevitable death, the man curled up under a tree and slept.
Night came, and he awoke to the voice of the Thunder God, whose voice was rumbling and loud. The man prayed and prepared himself for death, but instead heard the Thunder God speak to him. The Thunder God said, “Mortal, because you were so considerate, caring, and kind to those around you by leaving to die alone, I have decided to spare your life. You may go home.” With that, the man bowed in disbelief and began his journey home.
As he trudged down from the forest area, he heard a loud sound, and saw the tree he sat under get struck by lightning. The family, who had seen this, too (but not him) began to mourn and cry because they perceived him as dead. But a few moments later, the man was in front of the door, waiting to be let in. Overjoyed, the family rejoiced and wanted to celebrate his safe return. The wife could only find red beans and rice, so she mixed the two together and everyone enjoyed the meal.
Ever since then, Okinawans and Japanese alike prepare and eat sekihan to celebrate good fortune.
If you liked this article, please be sure to share it and try out the Sekihan recipe!
Japanese Sekihan Recipe Adzuki Beans Rice
- ½ c dry Azuki beans (red beans)
- 1 c Mochi rice
- 1 c rice, medium-grain
- Azuki liquid (reserved later)
- After the beans have sat overnight, drain, and put in a pot. Cover the beans so that the water covers them 1-2 inches above.
- Bring the beans to a boil, then lower the heat to med-low. Cover and cook for 45-60min, or until beans are soft. Drain, saving the azuki liquid. Set aside.
- While the beans are cooling, wash mochi rice and rice together in rice pot until the water is clear. Add cooked azuki beans. Take the reserved azuki liquid and mix with water until it is 1¼ c. Pour in the rice mix and cook.
- After the rice cooker is done, fluff rice and serve. Enjoy!
Have you tried making this Japanese Sekihan Recipe at home? Let me know in the comments below.