My parents' house in Japan is surrounded by sazanka [sasanqua] winter-blooming camellia hedges, and their red blossoms give us a striking show during the holiday season. I always loved to see them blooming against a blanket of pure white snow through windows framed with shoji paper screens. Nowadays my parents don't get much snow, and this view of simple beauty with its contrasting colors is largely a memory from the past. So the camellia leaves I pair with kabu are a memento of a lost scene.
Last year's notes on ozoni and ebi no umani shrimp both said "still salty; can reduce soy sauce further." This year, ozoni came out mild yet deep; the shrimp turned out the best ever. A number of dishes will go through more adjustments next year.
Something always happens at the last moment. This year, I left the black cod in the oven too long and burned it. But considering the high fat content of the fish, it was not bad -- we simply ate less of it. Think positive!
- 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 yuzu citrus vinegar marinade: red (carrot) and white (daikon) are a celebratory combination
- Ebi no umani / shrimp in light soy sauce-flavored broth: bent form for longevity
- Musubi kamaboko / fishcake in knot shape
- Datemaki / rolled seafood omelet: for 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 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; and Yabane kinusaya [snow peas cut in arrow-shaft feather shape]: the arrow shaft wards off evil sprints
- Satoimo no misoni, yuzu-fumi / baby taro root simmered in miso and yuzu flavored broth: taro root is a symbol of productivity, for family prosperity with descendants
- Gindara no saikyozuke / grilled Saikyo-miso marinated black cod: a standard addition to our osechi
- Hotate no miso-yuanzuke / grilled Saikyo-miso & yuan marinated sea scallops: yet another standard with our osechi
- Surenkon / lotus root marinated in sweetened vinegar: see-through holes for a good perspective
- Kikuka kabu / chrysanthemum-cut Japanese turnip in sweetened vinegar
For our New Year's Day sake or omiki [lit. sake offered at Shinto altar], we had Shinsei, a self-described "yaya karakuchi" semi-dry sake with a faint mellow note, from Kyoto. It tasted great, far better than expected, and it went well with the ozoni and osechi.
There was a nice surprise during the afternoon party. A neighbor's son, who is now around 20 years old, remembered a number of osechi items I served many years ago. My impression of that particular party was that it was not a success: authentic Japanese dishes seemed way too foreign to a number of people and I was not sure if they enjoyed them. I would never have imagined that a little boy back then would remember when he grows up about lotus root and other ingredients with auspicious stories. I was very touched.