I think that one reason Japanese people are so fit and thin might be that their desserts are not that great. However, they do make great ice cream. I still sometimes buy their sweets, because they look so beautiful—but then take a bite and and I am so disappointed. However, I love red bean ice cream and wanted to somehow work red beans into a dessert. And it’s also kind of funny to serve a “red beans and rice” dessert— a play on the Southern staple. So I came up with red beans and rice pudding, which marries two things that are super-important to Japan—the adzuki bean and rice—into a dessert that tastes good and that people can’t turn their noses up at.
Wash the beans and place in a 3-quart saucepan with 2 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce to a steady simmer, and and cook until the water turns wine red, about 8 minutes.
Drain the beans, discarding the cooking liquid. Rinse the pot, return the beans, and add 3 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the water barely covers the beans, about 30 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup cold water and skim the froth. Add the granulated sugar and cook for 20 minutes. Add the brown sugar and cook until the beans are cooked through and tender, another 5 minutes. Stir in the usukuchi and salt. Place beans and liquid in blender and puree until smooth. Makes 2 cups. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, combine the vanilla seeds and pods, milk, cream, and granulated sugar and bring to a gentle boil. Stir in the rice, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring often, until thick and gooey, for 30 to 45 minutes. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn.
If you like, spray 6 ramekins generously with cooking spray. Fill the ramekins with the pudding, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it to the top of the pudding and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours or preferabley overnight. (You can also simply place the pudding in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate.)
Before serving the pudding, top with red bean jam, along with some reduced balsamic vinegar if you like.