One of the essential osechi-ryori, or traditional Japanese new year foods, kuromame is actually a type of soy bean that has a black skin. Symbolising good health, it should come as no surprise that kuromame is a very nutritious food that’s rich in antioxidants that may help prevent cancer as well as lower levels of bad cholesterol.

Kuromame is a sweet dish that complements the salty ones in osechi-ryori. In keeping with tradition, kuromame is usually cooked in an iron pot so the beans can retain their smooth, black surface. In the past, rusty nails were usually thrown into the pot to aid this process, but for obvious reasons to do with food safety, this is no longer commonly practised.

While kuromame is not difficult to prepare, it is a time-consuming process, taking two days, and several important details should be noted during preparation. First, the beans are boiled with sugar and baking soda. Then, when it’s cooled, the mixture is left to soak overnight. The following day, the beans are again stewed until they’re soft. Once the beans are cooked, they are removed, and the remaining liquid stewed till it thickens. The beans are then put back into the mixture again. The biggest challenge when preparing kuromame is ensuring the beans don’t break or get wrinkled during preparation.

Kuromame is usually only eaten during the New Year. In recent years, however, the Japanese have found other ways to enjoy this health food, for instance, as a tea. All you have to do is roast the beans in a frying pan for about 10 minutes, before putting them into a mug with hot water. Let the infusion steep for five minutes before enjoying your daily dose of antioxidants.