Shiruko Porridge, a new recipe from my travels in Japan


What is Porridge? From traditional slow cooked Scottish coarse oatmeal, to a Porridge pot eaten at a commuters desk in a London office, in the UK we think of Porridge as being a breakfast dish made from oats. Go to Scandinavia and you will breakfast on multi-grain Porridge’s made with barley and rye, but still oats too. Travel a bit further to Eastern Europe and you will be served Kasha, a buckwheat Porridge. A deliciously different flavour to oat Porridge but still a grain based Porridge. Its not until you travel long-haul that you enter a really different realm of Porridge and its this long-distance travel that inspires my new recipe.

Recently back from a month in Japan, I’ve brought back with me a suitcase full of recipe ideas and a different way of seeing Porridge. During my travels I enjoyed three types of Porridge made from; beans, rice and corn. These dishes gave me a new type of Porridge for breakfast but also lunch and dinner too. I will be writing up three new recipes over the coming weeks but first up is a distinctly different way to do breakfast! 

Red Beans or Adzuki/Aduki beans are everywhere in Japanese cooking. Cooked whole or made into a paste, served as a savoury or sweetened, these beans pop up in everything from ice cream sundaes to Sekihan, a savoury festival dish filled with magic beans! Needless to say I managed to find Adzuki bean Porridge and loved it.

Red Bean Porridge is served several ways in Japan but the two key types of Adzuki Porridge are;

Zenzai Porridge –  is generally cooked from a pre-made sweetened paste of adzuki beans and topped with mochi (glutinous rice sweet).

Shiruko Porridgea more watery variety, where the adzuki beans generally served whole.

There are plenty of regional and seasonal varieties of Red Bean Porridge including; a summer version where the beans are served over shaved ice, a savoury version that is served with salty pickled plums (umeboshi), and a winter special served with chestnuts.

For this recipe I’ve followed a traditional way of cooking red bean Porridge but have topped this dish with fruit rather than the conventional Japanese mochi balls. I’ve made the changes for flavour, seasonality and to make sure there isn’t too much sugar in the recipe. I’ve also listed optional extras at the end of the recipe for you try different ways with these versatile beans.  

Shiruko Porridge


100g Dried adzuki beans

Pinch of Himalayan salt

Sweetener of choice

2 firm pears

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract


Makes: 2 hearty breakfasts

Takes: Pre-soaking plus 35 mins cooking 


  • Wash the adzuki beans. Place in a large, deep saucepan, cover with water and leave to soak overnight.
  • In the morning discard the water and rinse the beans again. Then cover the beans with fresh water, place the saucepan over a high heat and boil for 5 mins.
  • Add the salt and then reduce the heat to a simmer. 
  • Whilst the beans are cooking add your sweetener of choice. I use two teaspoons of Xylitol but rice malt syrup or yuzu are authentic options. Honey is a good option too. 
  • Cook the beans for 20-30 mins or until they are soft.
  • Whilst the beans are cooking wash and peel the pears.
  • Warm a separate, large saucepan of water and add the vanilla.
  • Place the pears into this warmed water and simmer over a low heat.
  • Once the adzuki beans are cooked spoon into bowls.
  • Carefully remove the pears, slice and garnish the beans.
  • Serve Shiruko hot and enjoy. 

Optional extras;

Add sultanas to the cooking beans for extra sweetnes and a soft chewy texture.

Pour in a little coconut milk to the cooked Porridge for an added richness.

If you can find it (and the fruit has become more widely available in the last year) a splash of Yuzu gives a sharp, fragrant, flavour to this Porridge. My favourite topping is a teaspoon of Yuzu marmalade.

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