Chinese Red Beans and Rice: The Savory Recipe

My friend Winnie recently gave me a big bag of Chinese red beans. She’s moving away to Australia, and I recognize in her the same intense hatred of waste that lives inside of me. We had dinner together the other night, and she showed up with a paper bag of food items that her Cantonese mother had given her.

“Let’s see,” she said. “We’ve got some jasmine tea, here. And a big bag of mystery tea, very exciting. And a few pounds of dried Chinese red beans. Do you know how to cook them?”

“Of course. I’ll make red beans and rice. I brought a new and improved recipe back from my last trip to Slidell.”

“Eh… sure. My mom says to just cook them with sugar and add milk over the top when you’re ready to eat it.”

Chinese red beans, also known as adzuki beans.


At least one of my eyebrows raised up.

“You know, like Chinese cereal. I used to eat it all the time when I was little. OR you could make red bean ice cream, or red bean mochi balls…”

In the debate between savory and sweet, I always land on the savory side. But I do have quite a few red beans, enough to justify a little experimentation. My savory recipe is grounded in the firm culinary principles of South Louisiana, but the flavor profile is all Houston Chinatown.


Some of my favorite Chinatown ingredients: fresh ginger, green onions, dried shiitake mushrooms, and baby bok choy.



Sichuan Chili Oil Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups of Canola oil
  • 1 cup of crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of Sichuan pepper
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 5-7 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Heat the oil on the stove.  When the oil begins to simmer very lightly, remove it from the heat.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the oil, and let the oil come back to room temperature.


Some of my favorite Chinatown spices: cinnamon stick, star anise, black peppercorns, Sichuan peppercorns, and bay leaves.


Chinese Red Beans

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 inches ginger, grated
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 cups of Chinese red beans
  • 5 cloves
  • 5 pinwheels of star anise
  • 1 tablespoon of fennel
  • Sichuan Chili Oil


  • 2 cups short-grained rice
  • 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
  • 4 cups of water


  • green onion, thinly sliced
  • radish sprouts
  • chopped watercress

Saute the onion, ginger, and garlic on medium-high heat.  When the onion starts to become translucent, add the shiitake mushrooms, the red beans, and enough water to cover them.  Bring to a boil.  Wrap the spices in a cheese cloth and steep in the beans.  Lower the temperature and simmer for 2 hours.  After the beans become tender, add salt to taste.

Meanwhile, cook the rice in the vinegar and water.  When done, serve the beans on top of the rice and sprinkle the green garnishes over the top.


My red beans and rice. I simmered the bok choy with sliced garlic in a 1/2 cup of water or so, and dressed with sesame seed oil after the water evaporated.  

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