LIGHT & LOCAL
Whenever New Year's Day rolls around, I reminisce about the wonderful Japanese New Year's dinner that my friend Lynne Lee's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Akira Murakami, used to give. In the middle of the living room was a long, low table, surrounded by zabutons and spread with food. They had all my favorite Japanese dishes: sushi, nishime, namasu and mochi. One of the best things was the sekihan — red rice.
If you are lucky enough to stumble across a traditional okazuya, you may find it shaped as musubi. Traditionally, sekihan is only made on special occasions, such as New Year's Day, weddings or birthdays. It is usually made with white mochi rice and garnished with dry-roasted sesame seeds and a shiso leaf. Lynne made a more healthful version by using unpolished whole-grain mochi rice (with the hull still on). You can find it in Chinatown.
The azuki beans that are mixed with the rice produce a reddish color, symbolizing happiness. If you want to be healthy and happy in the upcoming new year, make sekihan.
SEKIHAN (HAPPY RED RICE)
Soak the two different rices separately in cold water for 15 minutes. Rinse the azuki beans and cover with water and place in a saucepan. Bring the beans to a rapid boil and lower the heat to medium and cook for 45 minutes, until beans are softened but still whole and not mushy. Drain and reserve the bean cooking liquid, placing the beans in a bowl to cool.
Wash the rices and drain well. Measure liquid from the cooked beans to equal 1 3/4 cups of liquid, adding water if necessary. Mix rice and azuki beans with liquid and steam in rice cooker or saucepan, as normal. When done, turn off the heat, and let stand for 10 minutes. Garnish with sesame seeds and shiso leaf.
Makes six servings.
Want a local recipe lightened up? Write Light & Local, Taste Section, The Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; or firstname.lastname@example.org. Carol Devenot is a Kaimuki-raised kama'aina, teacher and recipe consultant, and author of "Island Light Cuisine" (Blue Sea Publishing, paper, 2003). Learn more at www.islandlightcuisine.com.