Today I cooked kuromame thinking of the approach of the end of the year (anyway it was raining outside). Kuromame are black soybeans whose shape is perfectly round and they are much larger than their yellow colored-cousin. The flavor of this black variety is robust and much tastier than….
their cousin. Furthermore, its dark purplish (almost black) color suggests that it is rich in anthocyanin, a well known anti-oxidant. So, I love kuromame. The best kuromame in Japan comes from the rich soil of Tanba in Hyogo Prefecture in Honshu and also from Hokkaido, the northern most island. The beans that I cooked are from Tanba – my first choice. I brought back some of the bags from Japan on my latest trip (you can order the beans online and I recommend the Mitoku brand). Cooking kuromame at the end of the year as a part of Osechi-ryori, the New Year’s Feast is like the roasting the turkey, baking pumpkin pie or preparing cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner here in America. Preparing Osechi-ryori is a ritual based on our tradition.
A part of the annual tradition says that eating kuromame beans at the beginning of New Year will bring a healthy year to us. Why? In Japanese “beans” are “mame”. But, the word “mame”, though written differently but pronounced the same as for “beans” (a homonym for those of you who remember your high school grammer – if such things are still taught in American schools) has several other meanings: hard-working, serious and healthy. I will post the recipe next week with an explanation of why I am cooking the beans with the egg-shaped iron ball that you can see in the photograph.