Eats - Japanese New Year's Food - 2008 DIY
"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.
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.
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
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
||a fish stock soup made with mochi and
||small patties of pounded glutinous rice
||braised burdock room (my boyfriend made
this because I don't like it)
||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
||this literally just means "simmered
so I just used whatever ingredients I felt like eating
and looked good at the grocery store.
|sweet fried lotus root
||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
|ebi no saka mushi
||eh-bee no sah-ka moo shee
||shrimp soaked in sake (rice beer)
||braised seaweed rolls tied with an edible
gourd (kanpyo). I made plain ones and some with thinly
sliced beef, carrots, and daikon inside
||a giant rolled omelette made with fish
mousse and sugar
|braised shitake mushrooms
||reconstituted dried mushrooms cooked in
soy sauce and sugar
||small candied black beans
All of the recipes for the items listed above
can be found on About.com.
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,
||There was some in my boyfriend's freezer
||Again, the boyfriend comes through
|very thinly sliced beef, eye of round
||DO NOT buy at a Japanese grocery unless
you want to pay through the nose. Find a Korean grocery.
|preserved sweet Korean chestnuts
||I found these at the Korean market and
thought they would be a good stand-in for the Japanese
|abura age (5 pieces)
||deep fried tofu
||white kamaboko made from red snapper
||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.
||pre-packaged items for "oden" (a simmered
dish); this typically includes fishcake in many forms
|senpin tai hanpen
||"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
||a firm fish mousse made into a long roll.
It's sliced when used.
||white sesame seeds
|fujikko hayani konbu
||"konbu" seaweed, which is used to make
stock and to wrap things (among other uses)
||dried black beans
||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)
||dried tofu squares
||glutinous rice powder used to keep mochi
from sticking to whatever it's put down on
|dried shiitake (7 oz)
||dashi is the soup base for a lot of Japanese
soups. It's derived from shaved, dried fish of some kind
|2.66 lbs. daikon
||white Japanese radish. Get one that feels
heavy for the size
|1.07 lbs. gobo
||I really don't like gobo, so I'm not telling
you a lot about it
|1.72 lbs. organic carrot
||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
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
STEP 1: Put mochi in a toaster oven
and toast until puffy and lightly brown on top
2: In a tiny dish, mix together one tablespoon soy
sauce and one tablespoon sugar. Stir until combined.
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.