All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Osechi New Year's Day meal, 2018

Our New Year's Day meal was smaller than in other years, yet consisted of all of our favorites.

People say that holiday seasons are uplifting. For me, it is the last week of December. The feverish mood at grocery stores and shopping arcades in Japan toward the end of the year is infectious. Both sellers and shoppers are in high spirits, all hoping for an auspicious start to the coming year. Here in the US, a somewhat similar ambiance is seen at Japanese grocery stores that often carry better quality ingredients and special items for the New Year's Day celebration.

This year (technically last year ... only several days ago) we were able to buy very good gobo burdock root, kabu turnips, daikon radish and renkon lotus root, not to mention fish, at Uwajimaya in Seattle. We were both very pleased with the freshness. Gobo, in particular, was so fresh that tataki gobo in sesame dressing turned out to be the best ever of all the years I have been making it. Tom liked it so much and kept eating it, which made me worry that we might run out before serving it as part of osechi.

Osechi lineup for 2018 is nothing more than other years. After listing everything below, I realized that we had the same brand of sake as last year, but we were not sure about this year's Dassai ... perhaps we chose the wrong variety among three Dassai options?

  • Ozoni / New Year's Day soup with mochi rice cakes
  • Kuromame no fukumeni / slightly sweet soy sauce-flavored black soybeans: Mame [beans] also signify health
  • Kohaku namasu / daikon radish and carrot in sweetened vinegar marinade with yuzu citron juice: Red (carrot) and white (daikon) are a celebratory combination
  • Musubi kamaboko / knot-shaped fishcake
  • Datemaki / seafood omelet: Rolled form implies scrolls, symbolizing intellectual enhancement and cultural appreciation
  • Tataki gobo / burdock root in sesame soy sauce vinegar dressing: long, strong root symbolizes stability for the family
  • Takiawase / assorted ingredients cooked separately and then put together, including: Warabi to ganmodoki no nimono [bracken and deep-fried tofu patties with yurine lily bulbs, simmered in broth]; Koyadofu no fukumeni [rehydrated freeze-dried tofu simmered in light broth]; Umeninjin no nimono, shoga-aji [plum-blossom cut carrot simmered in light ginger-flavored broth, plum blossoms symbolize early spring]; Yabane kinusaya [snow peas cut in arrow-shaft feather shape, the arrow shaft wards off evil sprints]; and Konnyaku no nimono [rein-cut konnyaku yam cake simmered in spicy broth with ginger]; Hoshi-shiitake no fukumeni [rehydrated dried shiitake mushroom simmered in broth, cracked appearance of umbrella represents shell of long-life turtles]; Satoimo no fukumeni [baby taro toot simmered in broth, taro root is a symbol of productivity, for family prosperity with descendants]
  • Ebi no umani / shrimp in light soy sauce-flavored broth: Bent form for longevity
  • Gindara no saikyo-yaki / grilled Saikyo-miso marinated black cod: A standard addition to our osechi
  • Hotate no yuan-yaki / grilled yuan-yuzu citron marinated sea scallops: Another standard with our osechi
  • Surenkon / lotus root marinated in sweetened vinegar: See-through holes for a good perspective
  • Kikka kabu (kikuka kabu)/ chrysanthemum-cut Japanese turnip in sweetened vinegar
  • Omiki celebratory sake: Dassai (Yamaguchi Prefecture)

This year's last-minute accident was not being able to find the box of gold leaf flakes, which I originally planned to place on top of kuromame black soybeans. Then I found the inviting look of yuzu fruit hanging from its tree ... I topped kuromame with yuzu peel slices. As you put each bean into your mouth, the aroma from the little yuzu peel is soft yet bracing, gently and slowly filling the mouth and nostrils. A small thing gives us so much. At the end, I was happy that I did not find the gold leaf box.  

There was something unusual in the media this year. I normally see a headline in Japanese papers that tells how many people died from choking while eating mochi rice cake. I did not see any headline this year and assumed that the number was low. According to the BBC (Delicious but deadly mochi: The Japanese rice cakes that kill), the death toll was 2 for 2018.

The mochi we ate was much less chewy than I would like. As the majority of mochi is manufactured at factories today, its texture is definitely changing. I miss old-style mochi pounded by people, although that is the most chewy, deadly one.


Anonymous said...

Looks great! Wishing you a Happy New Year and all the best for 2018. As always, I'm looking forward to your posts. Cheers, Philip

neco said...

Hi Philip,
Thank you for the New Year’s wishes. Hope you also had a great start for 2018. We are slowly expanding our repertoire. I will soon post our successful recipes.