BodyGuruBlog

Health, Wellness, and My "Multi-Life"

Happy 2014: Celebrating the New Year, Japanese Style!

photo of kagami omochi

kagami omochi

Happy 2014 everyone! My family has always celebrated New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with Japanese traditions. On New Year’s Eve my family would share a steaming pot of ramen as we watched the ball drop over Times Square. Although it is more traditional to eat soba (buckwheat noodles), ramen are quick and simple–and were more readily available when I was growing up. My mother always told me that long noodles would guarantee a long life, and to this day I make sure both to eat noodles on New Year’s Eve and to call or email to let her know. This year my boyfriend and I enjoyed a quick pre-party snack of pan-fried noodles with napa cabbage and scallion, but in the past I have served up everything from Japanese-style noodle soup to spaghetti aglio et olio.

photo of soba noodles

soba noodles – click for the full story

On New Year’s morning, we always awoke to the sounds and scents of ozoni in the making. Ozoni is a delicious soup that features mochi, or cakes made of steamed and pounded sticky rice: Mochi-Making video. These days you can find ice cream-filled mochi at some Japanese restaurants or red bean-filled and sesame-coated fried mochi balls from a dim sum cart all year long, but I always associate mochi with the first few days (or week) of the year. The photo at the top of this post features kagami omochi, which is a traditional Japanese New Year’s decoration. Click on it for full details.

Ozoni recipes vary by region and according to family tastes. At base, it consists of mochi cakes that are warmed, softened, and served in a broth. I’ve linked several recipes below. In the past I have made my broth by stewing a split chicken breast, seasoning the broth with mirin and soy sauce, and adding anything from sliced bok choy to mustard greens (a delicious surprise when I was unable to find any Asian greens), and dried shiitake mushrooms. This year I am trying my hand at Kansai style, which features a shiro (white) miso-based broth. Apparently, Kansai or Kyoto-style ozoni also favors round balls of stewed mochi, but I can only find rectangular pre-packaged mochi in my area. It tends to be a bit hard, so I pre-heat it in my toaster oven–350 degrees, lightly greased with toasted sesame oil–until it starts to puff up before adding it to the soup.

photo of packaged mochi

Packaged Mochi

I’m a few days behind on my ozoni making, so I cannot upload any photos. I can, however, offer a quick snack suggestion: norimaki mochi.

  1. Heat one piece of mochi per snack in the toaster oven as described above (you can also use a microwave, but keep an eye on it and stop the cooking as soon as it starts to balloon).
  2. While the mochi is baking, mix about a tablespoon of soy sauce with a teaspoon of sugar on a small plate or bowl.
  3. I like to warm my seaweed for a crisper texture and that toasty aroma. Holding onto one corner, gently flip a piece of nori over a burner (electric or gas) repeatedly until the color starts to change, and you smell the seaweed.
  4. Roll the mochi in the soy sauce-sugar mixture (the heat of the mochi will melt the sugar), wrap in seaweed, and enjoy!

Up next: final details and shout outs on my #Indiegogo Birthday for Giving campaign!

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