New year 2018
Osechi ryori are traditional Japanese New Year foods. The tradition started in the Heian Period (794-1185). Osechi are easily recognizable by their special boxes called Jubako , which resemble bento boxes. Like bentō boxes, Jubako are often kept stacked before and after use. "Osechi is what most people in Japan eat at the beginning of the new year. Regardless of how many times you go to Japanese restaurants, osechi isn't something you'll ever find on a Japanese menu. Its time and place are the first few days in January, in the Japanese home.
The New Year is often spoken of as the "most Japanese" of celebrations. With a history reaching back a thousand years, the traditional New Year's celebration is sprinkled with symbolism, and that symbolism is particularly evident in typical New Year's food.
This is onishime for Matsuda family - a melange of winter vegetables, dried shiitake mushrooms, konnyaku and other items such as burdock root and bamboo short simmered together in dashi. I used to help my mom to prepare the vegetables and make the twisted konnyaku pieces. Onishime, also known as nimono, is a dish of simmered vegetables that is ordinarily served throughout the year and is a popular Japanese dish. It is also served on Japanese New Year and is considered a part of traditional osechi ryori. Simmered vegetables include shiitake mushrooms, burdock root (gobo), lotus root (renkon), taro root (sato imo), devil’s tongue (konnyaku), carrots, and snow peas, which brings fresh green color to an entire dish. Japanese cuisine also specialize for topping and presentation. You know it, right?
Duck breast Japanese style. I used real soy sauce and mirin(fermented sweeten sake) from Japan. (Love my mom cuz she shipped them from Japan few weeks ago!) Real deal teriyaki sauce added this funny duck breast. Yes, I still have duck breast from holiday cooking. This is the last pieces!! American Teriyaki is too sweet for me, and it seems to be very arranged by other Asian culture in U.S. Luxury sweetness comes from high quality mirin of long fermentation. As you know, sweetness was luxury back in the day. Chefs don't use too much sugar in traditional Japanese cooking scene.
Kohaku-namasu, literally "vinegary red-white vegetable" is made of daikon and carrot cut into thin strips and pickled in sweetened vinegar with yuzu flavor. I can't get yuzu citrus in U.S, so I used lemon instead. Namasu, which is sometimes also referred to as “sunomono”, is a salad of raw vegetables, in a sweet vinegar and citrus dressing. For osechi ryori, namasu is made with raw carrot and kabu, which is a Japanese white turnip or radish. There are many variations of this dish, however, it is common for osechi ryori to include at least one vinegar salad. The bright orange color of the carrots in this dish symbolizes celebration, like our flag!!
This is miso marinated Spanish mackerel. Saikyo-zuke is a marinating technique that uses a base of white miso from Kyoto, to slowly marinate meat or fish before grilling it. It is hard to find opportunities in U.S to have this type of a dish with the sort of flavor you'll usually only find at a high-end Japanese restaurant in Japan. "Saikyo" in Japanese means "West City", which describe Kyoto, the old capital hundreds of years ago. ‘Saikyo Miso’ is mild and pale coloured miso originated in Kyoto. Well, I am from Tokyo, but love culture in Kyoto. Saikyo miso is always on my gift for myself list when coming back to Japan.
I should have taken more pictures! Sorry, my appetite couldn't win over "sharing heart". The osechi food that Japanese people make for the celebration is not at all immune from the painstaking effort and detail that we use in every aspect of the celebration. Every ingredient and dish is taken so seriously that they each have their own osechi meaning that signifies an important trait or characteristic that is desired for the upcoming New Year. As a result of this many of the osechi meanings are symbolic of happiness, good health, long life, fertility, a bountiful harvest, healthy partnerships and other positive qualities. I would say our "Oshogatsu" (Japanese New Year) is much like American Thanksgiving. Family time is always important.
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