It is already in the middle of January, BUT
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Thank you very much for visiting my blog last year, and thank you for coming back this year again.
In my first article of this year, I have to write about OSECHI RYORI.
Yes, HAVE TO!
For me and, I think, for most of Japanese people, a new year breakfast is the most important breakfast of the year.
As Thanksgiving is very important for you, New Year is very special for us.
All the families get together and enjoy the first morning of the year.
There are lots of preparations before a new year comes. We have to clean our houses perfectly to welcome a new year, and mothers are preparing very traditional Japanese dishes in boxes, OSECHI RYORI.
According to some resources, this tradition started in the Heian-Period (794-1185).
We prepare OSECHI RYORI in a special lacquer-ware, callede as JUBAKO (or OJYU).
They look like bento boxes, but they are stacked three or four.
In each boxes, we prepare several dishes which have some good connotations.
I was out of town on the New Year day this year, so I couldn’t prepare OSECHI RYORI. However , luckily, we could order it from one of the best Japanese restaurant in NY!
Look at the beautiful dishes in the picture above.
This was not only beautiful, but so detailed and so delicious!
Thank you very much, WASAN.
I will explain some of the dishes, using my OSECHI I made before.
I didn’t have a big JUBAKO (which is very expensive!), so I use a small JUBAKO and presented OSECHI RYORI on the plate.
As I told you, OSECHI usually have three to four boxes, and I got to know for the first time, there should be an empty box along with the boxes filled with delicious foods.
That indicates we will fill more food in this empty box, wishing more wealth in the coming new year.
I didn’t know that!
I would add two or three empty boxes then!
In these boxes, we put foods neatly, according to some rules.
Yes, there is a certain order.
Let’s go from the first box.
The first box is called ICHI NO JYU (ichi means the first).
In the first box, we usually put appetizers such as KAZUNOKO, KUROROMAME, and TADUKURI for enjoying OTOSO.
OTOSO is the New Year’s spiced sake.
This is very auspicious, and there is also a certain ceremony to have this, but,,,,we just drink these days.
The three yellow triangle in the picture above is called KAZUNOKO, herring roe.
The large number of herring roe symbolizes the prosperity of our offspring.
KUROMAME is the black beans in the middle.
How far black and shiny they get is very important, and there is some technique for that.
We cook an old nail with black beans for them to enhance their anthocyanin.
If we cook them in an iron pot, we could get the same result, so we don’t need to put a nail.
KUROMAME is cooked sweet differently from black beans here.
MAME means beans, and also it has another meaning , and that is “health”. We usually say MAME NI HATARAKU, which means work healthy.
We wish we could be healthy all year long and work well.
Tadukuri is dried sardine, and cooked sweet as well. Sardine is used as fertilizers in the rich filed in old days, so it symbolizes good harvest.
For us agricultural tribe, this is very important.
Among lots of delicious foods, my favorite one is ,,,
KURI KINTON is chestnuts in mashed Japanese sweet potato, and it requires lots of work to make this, so I modified that time.
My mom always sweats a lot when she makes this, and she get sore arms the next day.
KINTON‘s KIN means gold, so this implies our hope to have abundant fortune in the coming year.
Now on the left side of chestnuts in the picture above , you can see KOMBU.
Kombu is getting very popular in the US these days, so you know how good for the health this is.
We call this dish KOBU MAKI (rolled kombu).
In Japanese language we say YORO KOBU when we get happy, so we metaphor this in KOBU MAKI.
I tied KOHAKU KAMABOKO, which is red and white fish cake.
Red color represents the joyfulness and white color represents holiness.
In good occasions such as wedding or some celebration, we use red and white color together.
Then let’s move to the second box, NI NO JYU.
We usually put SUNOMONO (pickled vegetables with rice vinegar) and some baked dish in it.
KOHAKU NAMASU is pickled daikon and carrot.
KOHAKU means red and white in Japanese, and here again, it implies the joyfullness and holiness.
This is very similar to a pickles of Vietnamese food.
You may know it in banh mi.
I didn’t prepare any baked meat or fish for my OSECHI, but in the second box, we put meat and fish.
The one we ordered from WASAN had grilled salmon marinated with sake,simmered abalone, lightly simmered shrimp, bluefin toro, roasted duck and thicken beef tongue!
Shrimp is also very auspicious.
Shrimp implies “healthy until the hip bends like a shrimp”, so we wish our longevity.
In the third box, SAN NO JYU, we put NISHIME, which is a dish in which a simmering cooking technique is used.
Traditionally each vegetables are cooked separately to enhance and enjoy each vegetable’s flavor.
Another auspicious thing is pine, bamboo, and plum, SHO CHIKU BAI.
I shaped carrots as plum flowers, cooked bamboo shoots, and shaped cooked freeze-dry tofu as pine tree.
Any good luck motif are welcomed here, so I cook eggs, shaping as HYOTAN, gourd as well.
There are some reasons, and one of them is because the shape of gourd is widen toward the end, which we Japanese think very auspicious.
We call this type of shape as SUE HIROGARI like the shape of the number 8.
That is why the number 8 is the lucky number in Japan along with 7.
Also I shaped cooked dried tofu as HAGOITA (the bottom left in the picture), a battledore, which we only play during New Year holidays. It is like badminton. We use shuttlecock , so I made a shuttlecock with carrot and green beans.
Ohhh, this article is getting long!!
You could see how much I am excited, just remembering those festive dishes!
One more thing!
In the New Year morning, we enjoy OZONI, rice cake in the soup.
There are tons of variations of OZONI, depending on the area. I am from TOKYO, and TOKYO style is soy sauce base.
I made dashi stock with kombu, dried sardine, and bonito flakes.
Then I add chicken thigh and some vegetables , usually nappa and carrots.
I finished up with soy sauce and salt, and put rice cake.
Until eating OZONI, I couldn’t feel like the New Year has arrived!
Now you could see why I miss my country especially during this New Year holiday season.
This is my mom’s Ozoni.
I miss Japan and miss my mom.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!