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Eats - Japanese New Year's Food - 2008 DIY Osechi Experiment

Wes' 2008 DIY Osechi Experiment - Japanese New Year Food

"Osechi" (pronounced oh-seh-chee) is traditional Japanese New Year food. Osechi includes a variety of cold dishes and in my family a hot soup called ozoni, a fish-stock soup with mochi (small patties of pounded glutinous rice the consistency of kindergarten paste). To Japanese people, that sounds delicious.

History
Since the Meiji emperor changed Japan from the lunar calendar to the Gregorian calendar around 1896, Japanese New Year has been celebrated on January 1. New Year's Eve is nothing. It's all about Jan 1.

I've since learned that in the past everything in Japan shut down for several days after New Year's; thus, you had to prepare a meal that would...

1. last unrefrigerated for several days (in winter)
2. figure into the New Year celebration
3. feed a lot of people

In 2008, I decided to attempt to recreate this from scratch by myself. Here's what I cooked, and how I did it.

Menu

Pronunciation Description
ozoni oh-zo-nee a fish stock soup made with mochi and other ingredients
mochi mo-chee small patties of pounded glutinous rice
kinpira gobo kin-pee-rah go-bo braised burdock room (my boyfriend made this because I don't like it)
namasu nah-mah-sue pickled and shredded daikon radish and carrot. I left mine cut in rounds because I'd intended to cut these into fun shapes like flowers and crabs...but didn't
nimono nee-mo-no this literally just means "simmered thing" so I just used whatever ingredients I felt like eating and looked good at the grocery store.
sweet fried lotus root N/A I just made this dish up. It's fresh, sliced lotus root sauteed, then cooked in a sauce of sweetened soy sauce and mirin (sweetened sake for cooking)
ebi no saka mushi eh-bee no sah-ka moo shee shrimp soaked in sake (rice beer)
kobumaki ko-boo-ma-kee braised seaweed rolls tied with an edible gourd (kanpyo). I made plain ones and some with thinly sliced beef, carrots, and daikon inside
datemake dah-teh-ma-kee a giant rolled omelette made with fish mousse and sugar
braised shitake mushrooms she-tah-keh reconstituted dried mushrooms cooked in soy sauce and sugar
kuromame ku-ro-mah-meh small candied black beans

All of the recipes for the items listed above can be found on About.com.

Ingredients
Most of the ingredients should be available at a Japanese grocery. If you don't have a Japanese grocery, you can try other ethnic groceries in this order: Korean, Chinese,

Item

Cost Description
frozen shrimp
(0.5 lbs)
N/A There was some in my boyfriend's freezer
sake N/A Again, the boyfriend comes through
very thinly sliced beef, eye of round can't remember DO NOT buy at a Japanese grocery unless you want to pay through the nose. Find a Korean grocery.
preserved sweet Korean chestnuts can't remember I found these at the Korean market and thought they would be a good stand-in for the Japanese dish
abura age (5 pieces) 1.99 deep fried tofu
tai kamaboko 2.49 white kamaboko made from red snapper
konnyaku kuro 0.99 this is really hard to explain. It's a very firm flavorless jelly that can be sliced and boiled or braised. It's mostly for texture.
oden set 3.99 pre-packaged items for "oden" (a simmered dish); this typically includes fishcake in many forms
organic eggs 3.99 self-explanatory
senpin tai hanpen 2.79 "han-pen" is sort of like a fish mousse that puffs up when boiled. This one is made from red snapper, which I HIGHLY recommend over the kind made from shark.
tai kamaboko 7.49 a firm fish mousse made into a long roll. It's sliced when used.
shiro araigoma 3.49 white sesame seeds
fujikko hayani konbu 7.98 "konbu" seaweed, which is used to make stock and to wrap things (among other uses)
hokkai kuromame 7.98 dried black beans
kyosai kanpyo 1.69 an almost flavorless, tough dried gourd cut into strips that can be soaked and used to tie things. I know this sounds ridiculous.
koya tofu (5 pieces) 1.79 dried tofu squares
mochiko 1.58 glutinous rice powder used to keep mochi from sticking to whatever it's put down on
dried shiitake (7 oz) 4.99 self-explanatory
Yamaki-brand dashi 2.99 dashi is the soup base for a lot of Japanese soups. It's derived from shaved, dried fish of some kind plus seaweed.
2.66 lbs. daikon 3.96 white Japanese radish. Get one that feels heavy for the size
1.07 lbs. gobo 2.13 I really don't like gobo, so I'm not telling you a lot about it
1.72 lbs. organic carrot 1.53 self-explanatory
renkon (mizuni) 1.99 lotus root. When sliced crosswise, it forms rounds with oval shaped holes, sort of like low-rider rims. Again, this is almost flavorless and is mostly a textural element (crisp). If you slice it too thin, however, it can be stringy

Total raw ingredient cost: about $90.00

Total preparation time: 8 hours

Food lasted for: 5 days

Keep in mind that some items like the kamaboko and preserved chestnuts are purchased items. If you like to suffer, you could attempt to make these from scratch, but I've never known someone who has attempted it.

Making Mochi from Scratch
Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of the ozoni soup, which I can almost guarantee a non-Japanese person will not like. It's sort of like drinking soup full of blobs of chewy, white, flavorless, gummy paste. A lot of Japanese people don't like it either, so don't feel like you're missing something.

How I Eat Mochi
TIP: If someone gives you mochi, here's how I actually eat it most of the time.

STEP 1: Put mochi in a toaster oven and toast until puffy and lightly brown on top

STEP 2: In a tiny dish, mix together one tablespoon soy sauce and one tablespoon sugar. Stir until combined.

STEP 3: Dip toasted mochi into soy sauce mixture and eat.

Making mochi the traditional way involves steaming a large quantity of glutinous rice (also called "sweet rice") and then pounding it with a large mallet in a huge mortar, while someone reaches in bravely and turns it once and awhile while adding some glutinous rice flour (mochiko).

I opted for the modern route, which is to buy a mochi making machine. This amazing although pricey device ($325 US) makes it as easy as soaking rice for 8 hours, pushing a couple buttons, and then scalding your hands forming the fresh mochi into little patties. I got the Tiger-brand mochi maker (SMJ-AI8U) which worked like a charm, although the mochi pounding cycle is fairly terrifying. The machine shakes violently and should be on a solid surface or table.

The Result - Osechi Feast

Here are photos of the completed meal, which lasted several days in the fridge.

osechi - mochi making

osechi - freshly made mochi drying on a tray

osechi - braised shiitake mushrooms with white sesame seeds

osechi - kimpira gobo with shredded carrot and white sesame seeds

osechi - kombu seaweed rolls with beef wrapped with kanpyo

osechi - multiple dishes

osechi - kuromame - sweet black beans

osechi - nimono

osechi - datemake, ebi no saka mushi, kamaboko (purchased)

osechi - sweet korean chestnuts

 

 

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