Sunday, 6 January 2008

Traditional Japanese New Year cuisine 2: Ozoni soup and Gochiso buri daikon

As mentioned in a previous post, we were a bit ambitious with our New Year cooking plans this year. Not to worry. By the time it was all ready we could have eaten a scabby horse! (as Saffron-papa so poetically puts it). Luckily, we didn't have to as we had these two lovely dishes to munch on instead.

Edo zoni (Edo-style New Year's hotchpotch)

Ozoni is a lovely little soup, versions of which vary the length and breadth of Japan. Since we are in the Yokohama/Tokyo area, I decided to give Edo zoni a go (Edo being Tokyo's moniker, long before it became the megalopolis it is today). The prawns (shrimp) are for long life, and the yuzu (citron, a small citrus fruit) peel added to ward off colds. You could substitute lemon peel, but it will not have the distinctive scent of yuzu.

You will also need kamaboko, a cooked fish paste that is sold on a wooden block (I used a trendy scallop and parsley one which was devoid the oh-so-unnatural fluoro pink outer layer); mochi, or pounded sticky rice cake; and dashi, Japanese fish/sea vegetable stock (either made from scratch, from granules, or with a dashi "pack" (teabag), as I did). If you use dashi pack, you may find like I did that you need to use more salt. The flavour was very subtle, even for me and I use a light hand with salt as a general rule.

Ingredients (for 4)

4 blocks of mochi
4 small whole prawns
(2 tbsp sake
1/5 tsp salt (a pinch)) = A
2 chicken fillets (or a similarly small amount of chicken leg (I use 1 thigh))
1 small bunch komatsuna greens (or substitute spinach)
4 slices kamaboko (there is not really a substitute but you could try a small piece of cooked white fish)
1/2 a sheet of Asakusa nori (dried laver) (optional)
(5 cups dashi (see above)
1 tsp usukuchi (light) Japanese soy sauce (or to taste)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)) =B
Small amount of yuzu peel

1 Peel and de-vein the prawns (you can leave the heads on). Form into "U" shapes and cook until pink in a small pot with the sake and the salt (A) and about 1/4 cup of boiling water. Trim the chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle with salt. Cook briefly in boiling water.

2 Blanch komatsuna in boiling salted water, drain, squeeze out the excess moisture by hand and cut into 3 cm lengths. Separate into 4 bundles.

3 Crispen the nori by waving it over the heat on both sides, only until the colour changes (a matter of a couple of seconds). Cut into 4 squares. Cut skinny rectangles of yuzu peel and make two cuts lengthwise almost to the end, one from each end of the peel. This will allow you to make a "triangle" with the peel like the one in the photo (admittedly not very professional looking, but it was my first effort, too (g)).

4 Heat the dashi, the usukuchi Japanese soy sauce and salt (B). Add the chicken and simmer briefly.

5 Grill the mochi on both sides, (take care, as it puffs up and burns easily) and arrange in bowls together with the prawns, komatsuna, chicken and kamaboko. Check and adjust the seasoning of the soup, and ladle into the bowls over the over ingredients. Garnish with nori and a yuzu triangle.

Gochiso buri daikon (Special occasion yellowtail with daikon)

I was never really into cooking fish until a few years ago. Something about a residual fear of bones, after being rushed to hospital with one stuck in my throat as a child, I suppose. That and the young man of the house not being much of a fan. However, getting him to eat buri, or yellowtail, has never been a problem. He even fights to get the biggest piece!

We love this unctuous, melt-in-your-mouth fish with its moreish dark bits. Gochiso (a special treat), indeed!


4 slices of buri (around 400 g)
(3 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
2 tbsp each sake and mirin) = A
600 g daikon (less than half a big one)
3 cups dashi (see above)
(1 tbsp sake
2 tsp usukuchi (light) Japanese soy sauce) = B
3 tsp vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
(1 tbsp each Japanese soy sauce, sake and mirin
1 tsp sugar) = C
Finely slithered yuzu peel to garnish

1 Marinate buri in the Japanese soy sauce, sake and mirin (A) for at least 30 minutes.

2 Peel daikon and cut into rounds about 2 cm thick. Place the daikon with the dashi in a pot and heat over a medium flame. When it comes to a boil add the sake and usukuchi Japanese soy sauce (B). Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the daikon is tender.

3 Remove daikon with a slotted spoon and drain well. Arrange the daikon slices in a dry frying pan and heat over a low flame. Brown, covered, on both sides until soft. Drizzle over 1 tsp of the oil and swirl the pan. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

4 Remove buri from marinade. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and cook the buri until nicely browned on both sides. Add the Japanese soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar (C) and continue frying until the sauce reduces (I had my first flambe experience with ours; perhaps the heat was a bit high).

5 Arrange daikon slices (I used 2 per slice of buri) on a plate, top with the buri and garnish with slithered yuzu peel.

Note: All Traditional Japanese New Year cuisine 1 and 2 recipes are from Osechi to kigaru na omotenashi 2008 (Osechi and easy entertaining). Translating them has been a lot of fun because the recipe-writing styles of Japanese and English are so different. Hopefully the transfer was successful.


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