auspicious mochi love ::::
Ah, the New Year. 2016. Endless possibilities.
We started the almost-new year with this ozoni (or zoni 雑煮, “mixed simmer”) meal, a light brothy soup with the chewy rice-flour mochi charred and its star. The preparation varies from region to region and family to family in Japan, dependent on available ingredients and flavor preferences.
I first made ozoni last year, the delay giving me ample time to taste it more than once and read up on the history prolific mochi. (I know more of the Chinese use of these cute puffy rice cakes.) One website I found noted that mochi is eaten on New Year’s. Very true, but the writer did not qualify his/her statement further to clarify that mochi is eaten ALL THE TIME in MANY different cultures and has many names. It is sweetened, filled with sweet red bean paste, white bean paste, or peanuts; grilled, rolled in toasted soy flour, stir-fried, wrapped in nori, eaten in soup, on top of ice cream, ice cream stuffed inside, in hand … the possibilities are endless.
My family first ate this soup last year in 2015 during the auspicious Japanese New Year’s dates, December 31 to January 4, before my researched explanation of tradition. It was more of a “I’m huuuuuuuunnnnggggrrryyy! I’m staaaaaaaarrrrrving!” kind of meal, the first attempt at serving the night before, ending with kids going to bed early without dinner (I was not involved with this merriment or decision. I was boiling carrots and making daikon flower disks.) Obviously, food and auspiciousness was better remarked upon and appreciated the day of the actual consumption of the meal.
This meal is a clear example that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each ingredient adds another layer of flavor in the soup. Tailor it to what ingredients you have available. Make it your own tradition.
Happy New Year, hoping that your year will be greater than the sum of its parts, each experience adding to endless possibilities.
One year ago: raspberry lemonade bars
Three years ago: oatmeal crackers
Four years ago: status interruptus
- 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 8 cups dashi (or unsalted or low salt chicken broth -- not as good but a fair substitute)
- 10 ounces daikon radish, peeled and sliced 1⁄4-inch thick (get a thick root in order to make the cutouts with the carrot you see in the photos)
- 2 large carrots, sliced 1⁄4-inch thick (get a thick one, like the daikon)
- 8 ounces kamaboko (Japanese fish cake), sliced 1⁄4-inch thick
- 1½ cups kale or spinach, ribs/stems trimmed
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 8 kiri mochi (glutinous rice cakes), 1 x 2 inches, about 1⁄2 inch thick
- udon noodles (for the kids)
- Special equipment: aspic cutters (or similar to make the carrot/daikon cutouts
- mitsuba or green onions, for garnish (if using)
- Place shiitakes in a bowl. Bring 1 cup dashi to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan and pour over shiitakes; let sit until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer shiitakes to another bowl and discard stems. Slice shiitake caps. Pour stock back into pan, discarding any dirt or sediment.
- In another pot, boil water to cook carrots and daikon coins. Steam a few minutes to soften. Cool then use aspic cutter to cut shapes (see above how I did it). Discard cooking water (or may add to final soup to adjust saltiness).
- Meanwhile, boil dashi. Reduce heat to medium. Add reserved shiitakes, the sliced fish cake, kale/spinach, sake, soy sauce, and salt; cook long enough to soften but not lose the brilliant green color of the greens. Keep soup on low heat.
- Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Place kiri mochi on lightly greased baking sheet, watching carefully and turning as they brown and puff, about 6 minutes. (A hot grill works too, but watch carefully.)
- Divide rice cakes between 8 bowls and ladle soup over top. Arrange carrot/daikon shapes prettily. Serve hot.
- If using udon: Boil a pot of water and cook from frozen about 2 minutes. Serve immediately in hot soup.
- Garnish with mitsuba or chopped green onions, if using