Kuromame (Sweet Black Soybeans) literally means “black bean (黒豆)” in Japanese, and it is often served on New Years Day as a part of Osechi Ryori (traditional New Years Meal). The shinny black beans are beautiful contrasting with red lacquer “jubako” (お重箱) container, which holds all different kinds of colorful traditional meals.
Eating kuromame is considered good for your health for the new year. My parents encouraged me to eat some kuromame on New Year’s Day but this is actually one of my favorite item among all the New Years dishes. Kuromame’s sweet and slightly savory flavor can be quite addicting.
By the way, if you use “black bean” for cooking, please note kuromame is black soybeans. Kuromame recipe is pretty simple but the soybeans has to be simmered on very low heat for a long time. When it comes to traditional food and recipes, each family has a slightly different method to make them which passes down to generations. For kuromame, I’ve seen recipes which requires 8 hours but others are shorter.
Most of traditional kuromame recipes require 2-3 “rusty” iron nails but for today’s recipe I made without them as an experiment. The reason why the Japanese put nails to cook kuromame is that rust (iron oxide) from nails has chemical reaction with tannin in the beans, which help the beans turn dark to a rich black color.
How was the result? Maybe the “blackness” might have improved if I had put nails, but I’ve seen beautiful black kuromame which had been cooked without nails before. So at the end, it’s really up to you. The taste was excellent!
Hope these delicious kuromame will bring you health for the new year.
- 200 g kuromame (black soybeans)
- 200 g granulated sugar
- 1200 ml water
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- A large pot with a lid
- 2-3 rusty iron nails*
- Rinse black soybeans and discard bad ones. Some beans have skin that is half peeled off, but you don’t have to throw away.
- Put black soybeans and the right amount of water in a large pot and let it soak overnight. I soaked for about 12 hours.
- After being soaked, add sugar and salt and gently mix.
- Start cooking over medium heat and put an Otoshibuta and a regular pot lid. The otoshibuta is to keep the soybeans under the liquid (As soon as the beans are exposed to air, they'll start wrinkling.) and the regular lid is to keep the heat in the pot.
- Once boiling, you start to see white bubbles.
- Take out the two lids and thoroughly skim the white scum off the surface. When it's done, put back two lids.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer (make sure beans are not “bouncing around”) for 4 hours or until the beans are soft. Check if the beans are cooked by mashing a bean with two fingers. Skim the white scum off the surface a few more times while simmering.
- If it’s easily mashed, add soy sauce.
- Remove from the heat and place the parchment paper on top. As soon as the beans are exposed to air, they'll start wrinkling. To avoid that, you need to cover the surface of the liquid with parchment paper or plastic wrap.
- Once the pot is cooled down, keep in the refrigerator overnight. This will help the soybeans turn darker and absorb more flavor.
Traditional recipes require 2-3 “rusty” iron nails. If you use nails, choose very rusty nails, wrap them in cheese cloth and put in the water when you soak over night. Don’t take the nails out until you complete cooking.
The ratio for black soybeans : sugar : water = 1 : 1 : 6.
Must be consumed in 3-4 days, otherwise freeze in an airtight container.