My first foray into a world that my parents and grandparents were already familiar with (i.e., super cheap cooking with the cheapest and most flatulence-inducing protein provider) was with a 1-pound (2.2 kg.) bag of black beans. I'm pleased to say that they cooked well despite it being my first attempt. Of course, it's not exactly rocket science. I just had to not be a total impatient dumb ass and keep the temperature down and stir the pot once in awhile.
The end result of my foray into dry bean land (a great name for a theme park for those who require little to amuse themselves) was a plethora of cooked black beans. What better way to put them to use than to experiment with some recipes that are off the beaten path? I looked up one of the many recipes for cakes and brownies made with black beans and promptly made my first creation. This is it:
The response you tend to get to the idea of making sweets with beans is, "ewwww!" And, the first question people tend to ask when you make such things is, "does it taste like beans?" The answer is, "no, it tastes like cake." No matter how many assurances you offer the average Western consumer, they are unlikely to truly believe you until you get them to place a bite into their yobs and allow them to personally witness the lack of beaniness.
Now, if you change the location of this situation to Japan and you are talking to a Japanese person, their response is "yum!" Well, more accurately, they will say, "oishii!" Because bean sweets are so common in Japan, they don't bat an eye at the notion that you can make a delightful treat with beans of all sorts. They've been living this reality for years, yet most Western folks are still giving you a look that says, "you're trying to get me to eat something good for me by wrapping it up in something that resembles something delicious, but you're not fooling anyone."
I asked my husband when I made the black bean cake if he would have been willing to sample it had he not had years of experience eating bean treats in Japan. He said that he was pretty sure that he would not. One of the gifts we received from our experiences with food there was an open-mindedness about food and what can and can't be used in certain dishes. The bean cake I'm reviewing today is one of the first ones that got my husband started on a profound love of such things, Kamome No Tamago (which means "sea gull's egg").
I consider this one of the "staple" consumer treats in Japan. I see them in most supermarkets year-round and they are relatively reasonably priced for a higher quality bean treat. They aren't the same as the fresh types that you can pick up at dedicated sweets shops, but they are very tasty and approachable to Western palates. Part of the reason for this is that the white bean filling is surrounded by a thin shell of soft, but firm cake coated in the thinnest layer of white chocolate. The center tastes of the stuff of cake, but is not overly sweet. The texture is moist, but not too heavy or dense. It would be unfair to say the center adds nothing to the flavor, but it also would be wrong to say it tastes like beans as Westerners tend to conceptualize them. They've been mashed into a near fudge-like texture and mixed with magic (sugar and margarine) to make them a textural and taste delight.
My husband and I usually bought our Kamome No Tamago for 525 yen ($6.56) for a pack of 6 egg-size cakes at Inageya supermarket, but I saw them at many other shops. They weren't sold at convenience stores for the most part, but they were in many different types of grocery stores and department stores. During our years in Japan, we likely consumed well over a hundred of these bean cakes between us, possibly each. They're one of the things we decided to carry back to America with us with our limited luggage weight capacity. They are worth the weight in your pack, the yen in your wallet and the calories.