Sekihan is typically eaten on celebratory or special occasions (i.e. birthdays, weddings, New Year’s), but can also be enjoyed all year around.
The name sekihan literally translates to “red rice”, as the rice turns a pinkish/reddish hue when its cooked with the azuki beans.
Read on for more interesting info about sekihan:
The two main ingredients of sekihan are:
Regular short grain rice is also sometimes mixed together with the glutinous rice. Sugar and/or salt are used for seasoning.
Other ingredients sometimes used to make sekihan include cowpea, various other types of beans, and peanuts.
Many regions in Japan have their own special variation. Let’s take a look at a few:
Locations / Regional Variatons
Sekihan can be found all throughout Japan. Here are a few areas/prefectures with special variations:
Hokkaido uses amanatto (甘納豆) instead of plain azuki beans. Amanatto is beans (such as azuki) that have been cooked in sugar, dried, then covered in more sugar. Thus, Hokkaido sekihan is very sweet 😂.
In Tokyo, red cowpea (i.e. sasage ささげ) is often used instead of azuki. Sasage is tougher, and less likely to break apart when cooking.
In Chiba prefecture, peanuts are often used together with azuki. Peanuts are a local specialty of Chiba.
In parts of Fukui Prefecture, taro is used. It is called Sataimo Sekihan (さといもの赤飯).
In Fukuoka, there is sanshoku sekihan (三色赤飯), or three-colored sekihan. It consists of rice that is colored yellow, red, and white. The yellow color is from gardenia.
History / Origin
Sekihan has been eaten in Japan since the mid-Heian period (794 to 1185).
Originally, the rice used was actually a type of “red rice” that was brought over to Japan from China. Over time, Japan stopped growing this type of rice in favor of the current day short-grain rice. Azuki (i.e. red beans) was then used to obtain the red color.
Why is sekihan eaten on celebratory occasions?
In olden times, the color red was thought to ward off evil spirits and misfortune. So, sekihan was cooked and served during important events, and as an offering to the gods.
Eventually, the tradition evolved such that it became more of a celebratory food. These days, sekihan is eaten for happy events like birthdays, graduations, job promotions, and on various holidays.
How to make Sekihan
Sekihan is actually super easy to make (with a rice cooker). Here is a simple recipe from Kurashiru:
Sekihan (赤飯): Red Bean Sticky Rice RecipeCuisine: JapaneseDifficulty: Easy
Easy sekihan recipe using a rice cooker. Original recipe from Kurashiru.
Rice … 2 cups
Dried azuki beans … 50g
Water (for boiling) … 400ml
Water (for cooking rice) … Appropriate amount
Salt … a little
Sesame seeds (for garnish)
- Wash the azuki beans quickly with water and drain.
- Wash the rice with water and drain. Set aside for later.
- Put the azuki beans and water into a pot, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 10-20 minutes, until beans are soft.
- Separate the azuki beans and the water/broth with a strainer. Don’t throw away the broth!
- Put the rice and the broth into a rice cooker. If the broth is not enough, add water until the 2 cup mark on your rice cooker.
- Add the cooked azuki beans, some salt and mix together. Start the rice cooker.
- When the rice is cooked, mix everything together, and serve.
Other fun facts about Sekihan
- November 23d is the official Sekihan Day in Japan
- There is an official sekihan association in Japan
Have you ever eaten sekihan before?
Did you like it? Or hate it? Or somewhere in between?
Leave your thoughts it the comments below!
Other Japanese Foods
Here are some more interesting Japanese foods to check out: