The winner of the first Tokachi Food Challenge will be announced at Thursday’s Hawaii Food and Wine Festival event, A Lucky Modern Buddha Belly, at The Modern Honolulu. The Tokachi Food Challenge is a unique recipe contest that invited the festival’s 80 participating chefs to create recipes using the prized azuki beans produced in Japan’s Tokachi District.
Several chefs accepted the challenge, and received bags of both the red and white Tokachi azuki beans. The winner among three finalists will be announced at The Modern on Thursday and be awarded a culinary adventure for two to Tokachi, Hokkaido. All three finalists will also receive $3,000, and all the recipes will be included in a cookbook.
I was able to get a jumpstart on some of this food-driven fun after being given some red and white beans to create my own recipes, although not part of the contest.
Like most beans, azuki is a good source for a variety of minerals, including iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and folic acid. Unlike most beans, however, azuki is most often boiled with sugar and mashed into a red bean paste known as “an,” which is commonly used in Asia and here in Hawaii as a confectionery ingredient to fill buns and rice cakes.
For this reason, I knew I wanted go savory with my recipe. I tried to think of an uncommon cooking method for azuki beans, and came up with dry-rubbed barbecue. I first roasted the red azuki beans in the oven along with a few coffee beans before grinding them in a spice grinder with dry oregano, dry basil, dry parsley and rosemary. From there, I added brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, cayenne pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and Hawaiian alae salt.
Next, I made a glaze by soaking the red beans in water overnight. I added liquid smoke, and after the beans had plumped up, I boiled them in water for 45 minutes. I then drained the water and continued to cook the beans in a mixture of honey soy sauce and sweet chili sauce. Once the beans were soft, I pureed everything. It was at this point that I noticed a slight plum flavor in the beans. Those who I had taste it even mistakenly thought I had added hoisin to the mix.
I slathered the azuki bean glaze over a pork butt, then rubbed the dry rub onto the roast. I covered it with foil and cooked it in a 300-degree oven for three-hours. The result was a succulent pork roast, but the best part was the sweet charred gristle formed by the rendered pork fat and dry rub.
Drawing inspiration from this summer’s foodie movie, “Chef,” I used the barbeque pork to make a Cuban sandwich. to prepare the sandwich, I sliced the pork and grilled it while generously brushing it with the azuki bean glaze. Just like in the movie, I spread mustard on my bread before adding my slices of roast pork and topped it with pickled mountain apple. I grilled the sandwich beneath a weighted press and yielded an amazing azuki bean Cuban.
When Highway Inn’s chef Mike Kealoha tasted the azuki bean glaze, he said it tasted like baked beans, which got me thinking, “Why not?” For the baked beans, I soaked the white azuki beans overnight in water and liquid smoke, then boiled them for one hour until they were the texture of boiled peanuts. I then diced up the pork butt and added them to the beans along with Portuguese sausage, chicken stock, brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, tomato paste and dijion mustard. I mixed it well, then baked it in a 325-degree oven for an hour. The resulting beans tasted just like the glaze, which complemented the Cuban sandwich nicely.
Although I won’t be eligible for any prizes, I had a lot of fun experimenting with these azuki beans and look forward to seeing what the winner of the contest came up with.