Here in Northern California, we have (thankfully) been getting lots and lots of rain. The forecast says it will be a damp year, and the Chinese zodiac says damp will be an issue internally as well. This curry includes a balanced combination of ingredients to drain dampness and warm the Stomach and Spleen.
Adzuki (sometimes spelled aduki) beans are the Chinese herb Chi xiao dou: sweet, sour and neutral to slightly cold, they drain dampness and heat from the body. When balanced with warming vegetables and spices, Chi xiao dou prevents the curry from being overly warming and helps the body drain excessive dampness, something commonly needed as we transition from winter to spring.
According to traditional Chinese medicine sources, winter squashes have a slightly cooling nature, with a sweet and slightly bitter flavor. However, cooking them for a longer period of time, as in a soup or stew, converts their thermal nature to neutral to slightly warming. Soups and stews are considered some of the most perfect foods for the digestion because they eliminate the need for the Stomach to exert much digestive effort to physically warm up and mash the food. Winter squash is a Qi tonic, and specifically strengthens Spleen and Stomach Qi.
Rou gui/cinnamon bark warms and tonifies Kidney, Heart and Spleen Yang, warms and unblocks the channels and vessels, and encourages the generation of Qi and Blood. Jiang huang/turmeric rhizome is acrid, bitter and warm, invigorates the Blood and dispels stasis to prevent Qi and Blood stagnation occurring from the winter cold. Sheng jiang/ginger rhizome releases the exterior and disperses cold, and specifically warms the Lungs, Spleen and Stomach. Additional warming spices such as chili, mustard seed, garlic and onion warm the body, benefit the digestion, and strengthen the immune system.
Beans are best cooked from scratch, and if you have the time (or an Instant Pot) home-cooked beans make a great base. For those of us short on time, canned beans and pre-cut squash make this a quick and easy meal.
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1½ in. piece cinnamon stick
- 1 small dried chili (or ½ tsp crushed red pepper)
- ½ tsp brown mustard seeds
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 Tbs ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 small fresh green chili, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 Tbs tomato paste
- 6 cups winter squash (butternut, kabocha, pumpkin), cut into 1 in. cubes
- 2 cans (15 oz) adzuki beans, rinsed and drained
- 6 Tbs unsweetened grated coconut
- 3 Tbs lemon juice
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 cup plain yogurt
Prep everything before you begin as this recipe comes together very quickly, with no time for measuring and chopping once you begin.
Heat the oil in a stock pot. It’s important that the oil is hot before you add spices, but not so hot that the spices burn, so use medium heat and test it by throwing a couple mustard seeds in. They should sizzle and pop immediately.
Add the cinnamon stick and dried chili, frying for about 20 seconds until they begin to darken. Add the mustard seeds, then garlic, onion, ginger, green chili, ground spices and salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the onions are soft, lowering heat if necessary. Add the tomato paste and ¼ cup of water and cook for another 2-3 minutes. There should be some liquid in the bottom of the pot - if needed, add a little water.
Add chopped squash, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 20 min or until squash is just cooked. Add adzuki beans, 1 cup of water and coconut and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Serve topped with cilantro and a dollop of yogurt. Delicious with nan bread and an Indian pickle!