The Japanese culinary repertoire has much to offer in the way of dried bean cookery -- both savory and sweet dried bean dishes abound. Dried beans have a greater concentration of nutrients than do fresh legumes -- they can become an important source of protein for those who consume no animal products.

Because kuro mamé (black soy beans cooked in a sugar syrup) are a New Year’s delicacy in Japan I have decide to make them the focus of this year-end lesson. Read the Language of Food notes at the bottom to learn why those who eat kuro mamé will have an especially sweet New Year! Once made, the black beans in syrup will keep for up to 2 months. Serve them on their own, with the frozen ice as pictured in KANSHA on page 231, spooned over sliced fresh fruit (crisp Asian pears are my favorite) or mix them into cookie dough or cake or muffin batter. The steamed Matcha Muffins (page 233) are especially yummy with sweet black beans added. 

Sweet Black Beans (recipe on page 238) Kuro Mamé

additional instruction on preparing dried beans


jubako (multi-tiered box, left) holding osechi (New Year holiday food, right)

sweet black beans are nestled in the top left corner of the layer/box on the right

Kuro Mamé black soy beans

dried, uncooked beans, left...  sweet-simmered black beans, right

I welcome your feedback -- especially captioned photos with a brief description of your kitchen sessions when you try making the recipe above. Those interested in offering feedback, please download a set of guidelines for submitting and displaying your work.To further teaching goals, I would like to post some of the feedback to this site, adding my commentary. 

The Language of Food: Multiple Meanings


kuro (black) mamé (beans)


kurō (hard work) mamé (diligence)

Numerous dishes are served in celebration of the New Year in Japan; these holiday foods are collectively called osechi. Although regional differences exist, certain osechi items, such as sweet black beans (kuro mamé), appear throughout Japan.  The Japanese love to engage in wordplay (especially in regard to food). Sweet black beans are a good example: the word kuro means “black,” but the meaning shifts to “hard work” when the calligraphy changes and the final vowel is extended. Similarly, the word mamé means “bean,” but when written with different calligraphy, mamé becomes “sincere” or “earnest.” Eating black beans in syrup on New Year’s ensure that those who work in earnest will have a sweet new year.