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torakris

Osechi ryouri

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No, just people I meet up with - but this year, my "people-collection" seems to have expanded. That's why I posted to eGullet, because I'm sure there's somebody who will be alone at New Year not far from each of us...

There may be organizations, but home-cooked food distributed by an organization raises all kinds of issues, so I think there's still a place for trekking round the neighborhood with your tupperware! I find that discount "wholesale" supermarkets and discount office supplies places are the best places to find bulk bento packs and plastic cuplets in a variety of sizes. They come in nice, compact stacks, so I always have a container available when I want to take a meal to somebody, without my kitchen being knee-deep in plastic containers.

For something like o-sechi that may last longer than one meal, I pack stuff into one of those frilled plastic cups rather than directly into the bento divisions, so that people can easily remove one item to warm in the microwave if they want.

I try to add in fresh flowers and herb greens, and pop in something non-Japanese like a couple of cookies or a mini sandwich etc.

The more I think about it, the more I realize I need ideas - I was looking at bento in the supermarket today, and thinking that many people living in doss-houses, or too sick, old, or disorganized to cook tend to live on bentos when they can afford them. So even though o-sechi is the King Bento, something with a little more "home-style cosiness" would be good.

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Helen, you are a saint. No matter how much thought and planning you put into this, I'm sure whatever you come up with will be appreciated.

But I see your point about wanting to give them a break from bento boredom. So maybe those western extras as well as the Chinese style osechi you mentioned before (which I've never tried but sounds interesting) can be something to concentrate on.

And some really good nimono. I occasionally buy bento and osozai from bento shops and grocery stores, and they are really convenient and sometimes even pretty good. Except for the nimono, which always leave me disappointed. I'm sure I'm not half the cook you are, but even my nimono is better than anything I can buy. So a break from the usual overly sweet stuff will likely be appreciated.

My favourite New Year's dish is tai-yaki, which my MIL buys ready made. It's big and quite expensive, but those little farm-raised tai are not so pricey (certainly no more than a handful of shrimp, and I'll eat tai-yaki over hard, rubbery osechi shrimp any day) and are definitely roastable in your kitchen.

There's also this one amazing chicken dish my MIL makes. I don't know the name but it's chicken simmered for a long time with star anise and other spices until it's a mass of super-soft meat and jelly. I have no idea if this is a standard osechi dish or just something my MIL does, but it is positively addictive and keeps really well.

And now I'm off to work at an English camp for the weekend. Not looking forward to four campsite cafeteria meals...


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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Chicken Simmered in Vinegar and Soy is a more heavily flavored version, and I'll post another similar recipe for chicken simmered in shochu and spices over the next couple of days - I often make that for New Year.

Both recipes contain star anise, and while the first recipe reminds me of Filipino adobo, I wonder if the second one is Taiwanese, since star anise is so popular in Taiwanese cooking. They are not restaurant dishes, either, so when I cook them, I often wonder if they came to Japan with repatriated expats after WWII.

Shichifuku Chicken Wings (with shochu)

So you'll be ready to talk home-cooking when you get back from camp?!

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I checked the ozoni recipe and was a bit surprised that it called for buri, instead of salmon. As you know, the "toshitori zakana" 年取り魚 (fish eaten on New Year's Eve) is usually salmon in Kanto and yellowtail (buri) in Kansai.

While talking with the okamisan (chef's wife) at the traditiona sushi shop I frequent, I learned that in her hometown (Shibata city, Niigata), they have both salmon and yellowtail! Lucky people!

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Buri *and* salmon! Wow...

The recipe with buri came from Oita in Kyushu, and I was surprised to see buri in a clear broth - when I livedin Kansai, ozouni in Osaka or Shikoku included grilled buri, but in a white miso soup.

I think some people in Hokkaido have salmon in ozoni, but my husband's stepmother was from Akita, and used chicken in a standard Kanto ozoni.

As for "toshitori-zakana", I wonder just where it is most common? In Kansai, my late first husband's wife was always disapproving when the menfolk wanted shrimp with their New Year's Eve soba, because she felt that New Year's Eve food should be "purifying" and vegetarian. I never saw those big aramaki salmon on sale before New Year until I came to the Kanto area.

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Buri *and* salmon! Wow...

The recipe with buri came from Oita in Kyushu, and I was surprised to see buri in a clear broth - when I livedin Kansai, ozouni in Osaka or Shikoku included grilled buri, but in a white miso soup.

I think some people in Hokkaido have salmon in ozoni, but my husband's stepmother was from Akita, and used chicken in a standard Kanto ozoni.

As for "toshitori-zakana", I wonder just where it is most common? In Kansai, my late first husband's wife was always disapproving when the menfolk wanted shrimp with their New Year's Eve soba, because she felt that New Year's Eve food should be "purifying" and vegetarian. I never saw those big aramaki salmon on sale before New Year until I came to the Kanto area.

That must be a good question, although I can't give you an answer.

When I was in Tokyo, I had no idea what the toshitori-zakana was. When I got married and my wife first told me that salmon was the toshitori-zakana in Niigata, I replied, "What is it? :huh: " But, when I was small, my mother usually bought a whole salmon (aramaki-zake or -jake) near the end of the year.

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I put the ozoni recipe up first, because ozoni is the first and most important of the New Year dishes – there is no keeping New Year properly without it. It has been THE New Year dish at least since the 16th century.

I wondered idly why ozoni is so local, while nishime (boiled root vegetables) ingredients are pretty standard all around Japan. This interesting book had the answer:

Ozoni used to be made with the fresh and dried vegetables which had been offered to the Toshi no Kami (God of the Year) on the family Kamidana or “God Shelf” (Shinto altar), using fresh fire and water. Since the offering is made with the hope of good harvests for the next year, ozoni is made with local produce.

Since the new day, and consequently the new year, used to start after sundown (the end of the old day), dishes like noodles and in some places ozoni and mochi were the first dishes of the new year, the oldest and most traditional dishes, and the most likely to be vegetarian. The food packed into the juubako or served with drinks the following day is more festive in nature, once the passage to the New Year has been properly observed.

I've a recipe for the most traditional, vegetarian form of white miso Kansai ozoni, however these days throughout Japan fish sausage – especially pink and white kamaboko or naruto-maki are also used, especially because they are not “raw”.

It is not uncommon to add fish to Kansai-style ozoni, or chicken in Kanto or the lower regions of northern Japan. Other local fish, or seafood such as ikura (salmon roe), ebi (shrimp), or hamaguri (clams) are used.

By the way, the same book mentions "toshi-tori-zkana" in the northern and Japan Sea regions.

The color white is very important, because it symbolizes rice, the staple food, and also snow, which makes the earth damp and friable, ready for spring planting. Therefore, white mochi, white daikon, and white sato-imo (small taro) are very common ingredients in ozoni everywhere in Japan.

Festive red accents come mainly from the intensely-colored Japanese carrot, and from fish sausage if used. Since our family is officially in mourning this year, we should probably make only the old dishes, rather than the festive treats, and should probably leave out the brightly colored red or yellow items.

The "trio" of black beans, salted herring roe, and tiny candied dried fish are a surprisingly longstanding tradition, and seem to be the same almost everywhere in Japan, although a few places serve other dried fish such as squid or abalone instead of the tiny "gomame" fish. My interesting book comments drily that the fact that they are so uniform, and also linked to very unfestive virtues like health and hard work, suggests the hand of moralizing officialdom!

Recipes:

Ozoni New Year's Soup, Kansai style

Kazunoko for New Year

Black Beans for New Year

Gomame or Tazukuri Candied Dried Fish for New Year

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I checked the ozoni recipe and was a bit surprised that it called for buri, instead of salmon.

Sorry if the layout of the recipe isn't clear...the recipe is for chicken, which is probably the most common meat in Kanto ozoni. Buri is a variation, and other fish are used in different parts of Japan, both in clear broth and miso ozoni.

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wow! i am looking forward to this newyears pictures.

personally, whilst i think the food looks nice and ohh so pretty sitting in those boxes, the foods are hardly anything id eat. except for say, the nimono or kinpira gobo.

i learnt from the posted links that certain foods have symbolic meanings :

Each dish has a particular meaning. For example, prawns for long life, kuromame (sweet black beans) for health, kazunoko (herring roe) for fertility, tazukuri (teriyaki taste small sardines) for a good harvest, kurikinton (sweet chestnuts and mashed sweet potato) for happiness, and so on.

does everyone really eat at least a nibble of everthing? mame is great but sweetened??? kombu rolls? i just imagine alot of clashing strong flavours there..


Edited by jedi_pocky (log)

.jedi pocky.

yum...

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It is sweeter than regular "okazu" side dishes, but then some Japanese drinking snacks are sweeter than western tastes would accept.

One reason ham is such a popular item in modern "ojuu-bako" (tiered lacquer boxes for serving New Year goodies in) is that it goes so well with both sweet items like kinton, and sharp flavors like namasu!

To my taste, most purchased osechi is just too sweet to be pleasant. However, made at home, with fridges and freezers to hand, it doesn't need to be even half as sweet as traditional recipes suggest.

Here are a few more of the very traditional dishes - these are seasoned more lightly and are less sweet than traditional versions.

The kinton sweet potato puree with chestnuts used to be so sweet that it was just a kind of potato candy, stiff with mizu-ame and sugar. If you buy it, it's been made so far in advance that it no longer tastes of anything much but sugar. It's much better home-made, and is usually top of my kids' list of requests every year.

Tomorrow I will input some newer items - sorry for the delay, router problems...

Please share your New Year favorites!

Datemaki Egg Roll for New Year

Kinton Sweet Potato for New Year

Iritori Chicken and Vegetables for New Year

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Here in Niigata, they use Kanto-sytle rectangular (not round) mochi, and simmer it in hot water until soft (Kansai style?), which is something I can never get used to. I like mine grilled on a grid or in a toaster oven.

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My little book says that Kyoto style boiled mochi, even round ones, and other Kyoto cooking styles, are found up the Japan Sea Coast - maybe the influence of the salt road???

New recipes:

first up

Kelp Rolls (Kobu Maki) for New Year

This is a surprisingly popular New Year dish. I find my family like them best of all rolled up with nothing at all inside.

Later this morning:

Chicken datemaki (modern datemaki variant)Variant on datemaki

Yuzu kanten jelly

Burdock root with sesame

Nambu-age Tempura for Fish, Chicken, or Vegetables (tempura with black sesame seeds in the batter)

These recipes are mostly fairly lightly seasoned - people in certain regions may prefer them more heavily seasoned, and older people may well prefer them sweeter.

Another frequently used item is su-basu (lotus root marinaded in vinegar)

Peel lotus root, trim notches between holes around the outside to make a flower shape, drop into vinegared water. Bring another pan of vinegared water to the boil, simmer lotus root until tender, drain, place in a container, and cover with equal quantities of mirin and rice vinegar).

One last item...

East/west snack selection:

In small containers or plastic or foil bento cups, put a few of the following

Cocktail size pickled cucumbers.

Seedless olives,

Salami

Small balls of fresh white mozzarella cheese, or chunks of natural cheddar cheese.

Lotus root, boiled as above, cut into short lengths and marinaded in vinegar, mustard, a little grated garlic turmeric, salt and pepper, and a little olive oil (i.e. a yellow mustard/garlic vinaigrette). You can also add halved chery tomatoes to this marinade.

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Fish for New Year

Delicate fish like snapper: sake-yaki

Rub small whole fish or slices with salt, grill, then sprinkle liberally with sake (sake with a very little soy sauce) while still hot.

Not traditional, but goes pretty well with a dollop of Thai sweet chili sauce.

More traditionally, boil an egg, sieve the yolk, and sprinkle over the fish immediately after applying sake. Must be in serving-sized pieces before egg sprinkles are applied - gently move garnished fish to serving dish.

Traditional but simple - place a few shreds of ginger and maybe yuzu on each piece of fish.

Teriyaki

Buri (yellowtail) is a great candidate for this.

Equal quantities of soy sauce, mirin, and sake but you may adjust these, using more soy sauce, honey or sugar instead of mirin, or adding ginger juice, as desired.

For 2-3 slices of fish, bring 1/4 c (50 ml) of each, plus 1 tsp of ginger juice, and ideally one sieved umeboshi to the boil, cool slightly.

Put fish on a hot grill or put each fish on a strip of baking paper in a frying pan, begin to grill or fry carefully, brushing on sauce and turning until the fish is completely cooked.

Ebi "fried" in sake

Clean 8 good-sized kuruma-ebi, pull gut through back, slice along belly to make shells easier to remove when eating, cut partway through between scales on belly side to prevent curling and shrinking.

Bring about 1/4 c sake and 1/4 tsp salt to the boil in a pan (you don't want to drown the shrimp), drop in shrimp, shake and turn in sake until bright pink, turn off heat, sprinkle over about 1/2 tsp or so of soy sauce, turn once or twice, drain and cool.

Planning ahead: Saikyo-zuke

This takes the pressure off last minute efforts.

Make a white miso pickle bed with 200 g white miso mixed with 3 T mirin

Spread over fish, place in a ziploc bag in the fridge for 2-4 days).

Wipe miso off very well, and grill carefully - can burn very easily.

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Happy New Year!

We landed back in Japan last evening and made it home in record time as the no one was on the roads on Christmas Eve. We are off to the in-laws for osechi and ozouni in a couple hours. I will try to take some pictures of the food I had absolutely no hand in preparing this year. :biggrin:


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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After the osechi ryouri spread I blogged at the beginning of 2007, I'm not doing it again for 2008. :laugh:

But we will end the old year with the requisite toshikoshi soba. (Let's just say I'm superstitious... it's worked for long life so far!)

Happy New Year, everyone!


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Pictures...

Individual sets of osechi ready for delivery

gallery_7941_2285_608.jpg

And inside

gallery_7941_2285_64091.jpg

For home use, our three-layer juubako, arranged by son2 and photographed by son1:

Top layer

bought datemaki egg roll, dried persimmon, shrimp "fried" in sake

center: tazukuri dried fingerlings fried with parmesan cheese

center right: lotus root in sweetened vinegar and honey-marinaded lime slices

bottom L to R

ginger-flavored black beans, snapper grilled with salt and doused with sake

gallery_7941_2285_1129205.jpg

Second layer

top L to R

yellowtail teriyaki with mimosa, vinegared octopus, kazunoko herring roe

center L to R

squid dressed with roe, ham with lotus root in sweetened vinegar

bottom L to R

some musubi konbu (kelp ties) scattered over kobu-maki (kelp rolls with salmon and dried tofu)

gallery_7941_2285_219.jpg

Third layer

Top left chicken, top right tataki gobo (burdock with sesame)

bamboo shoot, konnyaku jelly, shiitake, carrot, little bit of lotus root and sato-imo

Decorated with ginkgo nuts...and striped balls of wheat gluten, which I remembered half way through the meal!

gallery_7941_2285_21823.jpg

Finally,

left plate

yellowtail teriyaki with mimosa

chicken wings simmered in shochu rice spirits and spices (shichifuku-ni)

sato-imo small taro with three types of dengaku-miso

center bottom

sekihan (sweet/sticky rice with red beans - in this case a large type of azuki rather than sasage)

center top

namasu daikon and carrot with kelp, mitsuba, and yuzu, topped with ikura salted and marinaded salmon roe, and tiny vinegared kohada fish

right green cup

cheese, olive, gherkins

parmesan cheese tazukuri dried fingerlings

lotus root boiled and marinaded in a garlic, turmeric, and mustardvinaigrette

NZ-made salami!

Also kuri-kinton sweet potato paste flavored with orange and scattered with preserved chestnuts...and ozoni soup. They didn't make it into the photo, sorry.

gallery_7941_2285_4800.jpg

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I must say I'm impressed with the sheer variety of your osechi, but quite frankly, the first question that came into my head was, "What was the total expenditure??" The second question was, "Which osechi did your customers like the best?"

This year, I bought only a pack of three items (red and white kamaboko and datemaki) and a pack of black beans for osechi. :blush:

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Favorites?

Universal answer was "Namasu". Partly because it tastes really good when made in a double marinade (first marinaded in a basic marinade, which also removes any bitterness, then re-marinaded with kobu-dashi/sweetened vinegar/yuzu juice. This method is a little different from the recipe I gave upthread). Secondly, namasu goes so well with strong-tasting or rich osechi foods.

Other favorites were more individual...

kumquats cooked in shochu/syrup

kobu-maki

kuri-kinton

buri teriyaki with mimosa

snapper "fried" in sake

The money I spent on packing up the gift osechi (forgot to show the separate packs of nimono/yakimono/ebi, and sekihan) was not much more than a couple of hundred yen per set. It was totally worth it - faces lit up in big smiles when I handed over the pretty boxes.

Total expenditure...I allow about JYE1,000 per person perr day for all food and drink over the 1 week end of year/New Year holiday. I've tried to cost the actual osechi, but it's dfficult - so many things are kitchen staples, and/or preserved foods which can be bought months before New Yera prices kick in.

* There is very little waste - dried beans and dried fish fingerlings keep well, and can be used many different ways. I only use part of a pack of black beans for osechi, but the rest is used over winter. Trimmings from fish went into broth; vegetable trimmings made about 3 separate dishes (daigaku-imo-no-kawa, carrot peel and dried shiitake kinpira, takikomi-gohan) - extending the use of the food bought for osechi to around 5 days. Osechi makes good bentos for my son1 to take to his holiday job, too!

* Using non-traditional ingredients is another way to avoid the silly prices for fresh produce at this time of the year - for example, asparagus was cheaper than snow peas.

* Some of those ingredients are not as gorgeous as they look! The buri with mimosa came from a pack of cheap offcuts - I trimmed nice-looking pieces for teriyaki and sprinkled sake on the scraps, which were used for today's takikomi-gohan. The ebi and the snapper were ridiculously cheap, bought from an isolated supermarket just before closing time on New Year's Eve while doing my mother-in-law run. The honey/salt pickled salmon I make each year works perfectly well with farmed salmon, so we don't spend up on big plates of sashimi.

* A lot of osechi is made from extremely seasonal vegetables - no matter how much people crank up the price for certain varieties of daikon, carrot or sato-imo, they remain cheap, seasonal, produce, and you get plenty of mileage out of one Miura daikon!

* My husband isn't a person who really enjoys eating out in restaurants or traveling, he doesn't smoke or drink much - I could make the osechi cheaper by cutting down on the treats that go into the second tier of the ojuubako, such as ham, ikura, pickled fish and squid etc, but these things are his ONLY New Year treat. And with 4 men in the house over the holidays, plus the mostly male gift recipients, I'm resigned to including more fish and flesh in the osechi than is strictly necessary! I doubt if it adds more than 2,000-3,000 yen to the total cost though - enough for about 20-30 servings, yet comparable to the cost of a single person's meal at a moderate restaurant.

So the answer is, we get at least 20 servings for 5-10 people out of the osechi I make, and I estimate that it costs between 10,000 and 20,000 yen (including sekihan, ozoni, and stuff that just doesn't fit in the ojuubako), varying a little from year to year. However, we also get good mileage out of the ingredients and any leftovers.

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I made ozoni for New Years. It was my first time and I was scared after putting the mochi under the broiler and seeing that it had gotten REALLY big. The individual pieces I put there had stuck to each other into a big block of mochi. i broke them apart as best as I could and put them in the broth and it was still delicious.

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I had to make it vegan for the BF, so it didn't have any chicken in it. The broth was just made with nameko mushrooms, kombu, and miso.


Edited by nakedsushi (log)

nakedsushi.net (not so much sushi, and not exactly naked)

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Helen, your osechi looks wonderful and all of your people must have been so pleased.

Is it too late to share my osechi (as in the osechi I ate-- I definitely didn't make any)?

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I spent the holidays at my in-laws. This was the first meal of the new year. Same as every year: datemaki (sweet rolled omelet), kamaboko (steamed fish paste), a selection of wagashi (Japanese sweets), tainoko (bream roe), kazunoko (herring roe), and not shown: kurikinton (mashed sweet potato and chestnuts), kuromame (simmered black beans), shiromame (sweet white beans), gomame (caremelized baby anchovies), and namasu (carrot and daikon dressed in vinegar).

These will be served (minus the wagashi, which is just for the first morning) for breakfast and lunch for the first three days of the year. Dinner is when the more savoury, alcohol-friendly foods get served and I like those the best.

2176945517_33da3cf709.jpg

A close-up of my favourite osechi, tainoko (sea bream roe). I don't know if it's a Kansai thing or just my mother-in-law, because I've never seen tainoko elsewhere. Which is a shame because it tastes fantastic.

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Dinner on new year's day is yaki tai (grilled sea bream). Two, actually, and they're really good: caught wild in the Seto Inland Sea, they are better than anything I can get in Tokyo.

2176944283_8db053735f.jpg

The bones are simmered the next morning to make broth for ozoni (the other two days use plain chicken broth) and I look forward to it all year. This year we had plenty of broth leftover so my mother-in-law ingeniously used it up at dinner to make tai chazuke: the hot broth was poured over rice, topped with leftover tai meat and chopped mitsuba.

Only the second day of the year, but I knew this would stand out as one of the best foods of 2008! I really hope she makes it again next year.


Edited by smallworld (log)

My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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