• Scientific name: Vigna umbellata
  • Mandarin Chinese: Chi Xiao Dou 赤小豆/飯豆
  • English: Red rice bean

I know I have not been posting for a long time. That is because I have been away, trying to recover from a serious bout of migraine.

During this journey, I have discovered the red rice bean. This English name is not a formal one, as the bean is not really known to the English-speaking world. On Wikipedia, someone gave the name as a literal translation of the alternative Chinese name “rice bean” 飯豆, an allusion of its size.

Originally, I thought I was looking at red beans, which is a related but different species: Vigna angularis. Red beans are bigger than red rice beans, which are more the size of the green mung beans, which are Vigna radiata.

Be careful not to confuse the red rice bean with the red version of mung beans and the Japanese sub-species of the red bean called Azuki beans. First of all, red rice beans are deep red while red mung beans are dusty red. Azuki beans are shaped more like the roundish red beans while red rice beans are small but longish.

Red beans have the highest antioxidant content of ALL FOODS. Previously berries were occupying that place but as they are relatively pricey, this information comes as good news for many people who try to consume antioxidants in your diet. As you may already know, antioxidants get rid of the harmful free radicals in your body, which if remain, causes immunodeficient diseases like flu and cancer.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the red rice bean has the best medicinal qualities of all beans.

16th century herbalist/physician Li Shizhen wrote this about the red rice bean:

“induces the production of good fluid, facilitate urination, reduces swelling, stops vomiting; To be used to treat diarrhoea, alcohol intoxication; Helps to get rid of the swellings of winter fires (寒热), stops pus and dilutes the blood, induces milk flow…”

You can buy these at a traditional Chinese pharmacy or if you are lucky in a Chinese supermarket.

Unlike all the beans mentioned above, red rice beans are not eaten and are considered as a medicine. It does not get mushy when cooked, unlike the red and mung beans. To obtain its antioxidant goodness, add a tablespoonful of rice beans to half a pot of water. Boil for 30 minutes until the water is completely red. Add some sugar if you like. Drink it as a tea.

Note: if your red rice beans lose colour when cooked, then you may have been cheated. It could then by dyed red mung beans.

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