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


Ozoni / New Year's Day soup with rice cakes

Ozoni or zoni varies by region and family. Soup ingredients reflect regional specialties. Mochi rice cakes can be grilled squares (more common in Eastern Japan) or boiled rounds (more common in Western Japan). The ozoni I grew up with in Uozu in Toyama Prefecture consists of gobo burdock root, carrot, konnyaku yam cake, kamaboko fishcake, yakidofu broiled tofu and grilled fukuragi young yellowtail. My mom also added iwashi no surimi, or ground sardines. The rice cakes were round when we got them from my grandmother in nearby Unazuki (she also made miso and umeboshi pickled plums for all her kids and grandkids until her health deteriorated), then changed to squares after we started to buy mochi from shops, and they were boiled with a large sheet of kombu kelp.

Yellowtail is one of shusseuo [lit. "fish that moves up through the ranks"] which change (Japanese) names as they grow; shusseuo are thought to bring good luck. The Japanese names for yellowtail at different stages vary by region, except for the name of the fully grown fish, buri.

Finding a good fish for ozoni was a challenge for years after we moved to the US. After trying several kinds of fish alone or in combination, I settled on lingcod. Yellowtail is available at major grocery stores in Seattle. However, local ingredients are the key to ozoni. So here is our Pacific Northwest version of my family ozoni.

Whole recipe excluding mochi rice cakes:
2,548 calories; 59.6 g protein; 17.5 g fat; 55.9 g carbohydrate; 41.2 g net carbs; 3,486 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 64 mg cholesterol; 14.7 g fiber

1/8 recipe excluding mochi rice cakes:
319 calories; 4.5 g protein; 2.2 g fat; 7.0 g carbohydrate; 5.2 g net carbs; 436 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 8 mg cholesterol; 1.8 g fiber

1/8 recipe with one 50 g mochi rice cake:
437 calories; 6.6 g protein; 2.6 g fat; 29.2 g carbohydrate; 27.0 g net carbs; 437 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 8 mg cholesterol; 2.2 g fiber

1/8 recipe with two 50 g mochi rice cakes:
555 calories; 8.7 g protein; 3.0 g fat; 57.3 g carbohydrate; 54.7 g net carbs; 438 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 8 mg cholesterol; 2.6 g fiber

(Serves 8)

400-450 g (approx. 1 lb) ainame lingcod (434 g fresh/418 g grilled with skin in photo)
1 small gobo burdock root (153 g in photo)
2 medium/small carrots (135 g in photo)
1/2 kamaboko fishcake (78 g in photo)
1 yakidofu broiled tofu (272 g in photo)
1/2 konnyaku yam cake (144 g in photo)
Mitsuba (garnish; not in photo)

For broth
1,300 cc katsuo or katsuo-kobu dashi 
5 tbsp (75 cc) sake 
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 3/4 tbsp soy sauce

Mochi rice cakes (not in photo)
1 sheet kombu kelp (to boil mochi; not in photo)


(December 28 or 29)
Grill fish.


(December 29)
Slice and cut gobo into squares, and immediately soak in water.
Thinly slice (1mm) carrot, and cut into small squares.
In a pot, put dashi, sake, rice vinegar, gobo and carrot, and bring to boil.
Once boiling, reduce heat to low, and simmer.


Prep-boil konnyaku.
Cut konnyaku into small squares.
Cut yakidofu into small, thick squares.
Add konnyaku and yakidofu to pot.


Cut kamaboko into small squares
Bring water to boil, put kamaboko, count 10, and drain.

Add kamaboko to pot.

Simmer for 10-20 minutes.
When form stats to appear, skim


Meanwhile, break grilled fish into smaller chunks (286 g in photo), and add to soup. 


Add 2 tbsp soy sauce, and simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

Remove from heat, and let cool.
Keep refrigerated.


(December 30)
Reheat, add 1 tsp soy sauce, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Let cool, and keep refrigerated.

(December 31)
Reheat, add 1/4 tsp soy sauce, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Let cool, and keep refrigerated.
If the broth level goes down while simmering, add dashi as necessary.


(January 1)
Reheat soup.


In a pot, put plenty of water, kombu kelp and mochi, and bring to boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until mochi softens.


Serve some soup in bowl, put mochi.
Pour more soup, top with mitsuba (fresh or blanched), and cover (if available). 

  • Fresh fish is best. At very least, buy fish frozen at sea, and grill it immediately after thawing. Grilling can be done one or two days ahead of making the soup.
  • Taking the time to cool and reheat the soup is the key to getting a deep flavor without using too much soy sauce. If you have only one day available for cooking, repeatedly cool and reheat (and add soy sauce) on the same day to get the similar result. The schedule above stretches out over days, partly in order to make the large burner available for other osechi items.
  • Putting kombu in water when boiling mochi is to prevent mochi from sticking to the bottom of the pot and to add an aromatic note.
  • From the second serving occasion, add 50-100 cc water when reheating to prevent a salty taste (because broth is reduced somewhat every time the soup is reheated).
  • Sodium content percentage of the broth is 0.8%, which translates to 47 mg sodium per tablespoon. Leaving some broth in your bowl effectively lowers overall sodium intake. 
  • Kamaboko is quickly blanched to lower its sodium content. When small cut pieces of kamaboko are put in boiling water for 10 seconds, approx. 20% of sodium is released into the water. When kamaboko pieces are left in boiling water for 30 seconds or so, approx. 40% of sodium is released, but kamaboko also becomes tasteless.
    If a stricter sodium intake control is desired, skip kamaboko. When kamaboko is skipped, the total sodium figure would be 2,951 mg, and the figure for 1/8 portion of the recipe (1 serving) would be 369 mg (both excluding mochi).
  • The soup keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days (good through January 3).

(Last updated: January 12, 2017)

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