Happy New Year! May this new year bring all the more happiness and delicious food for you!!
What did you do for your New Years? I was very lucky to be invited to my friend’s in Lausanne for new year eve, to her friend’s new year party for the countdown, and started the 1st January skiing in Verbier resort in the alps. On the 2nd, I went back to Zurich and prepared some traditional Japanese new year dishes (Osechi) and had cozy new year celebration with my friends’ in Zurich. I’m really happy to have great finish for 2011 and an amazing start of 2012 in Switzerland 🙂
The Japanese also celebrate the New Year, in a BIG way. The official New Year falls on January 1st, like in the West but, in actuality the season itself runs from the 31st of December through the 3rd of January. New Year in Japan, is like Christmas in Switzerland. We have many traditions, customs, family events, and traditional food. This is the time I miss the family gathering at my grandma’s, the traditional new year food we eat with all my family. This year was made even more special with the announcement of my cousin’s pregnancy! Oh how I miss my family, and the food of course!
For the first time in my life, I prepared Osechi by myself. Osechi is a special traditional foods most of which require speciality regional/seasonal food, only available during this time of the year. Common dishes are kobumaki (simmered kombu rolls), kuromame (simmered black soy beans), kurikinton (mashed sweet potato with sweet chestnuts), tazukuri (candied dried sardines), and so on. Each dish and ingredient in osechi has meanings, such as good health, good harvest, happiness, prosperity, long life, and so on. I tried to keep the principle of Osechi, but with my motto being “cooking with Western ingredients” I cooked dishes that I can with the locally available ingredients, with some special Japanese ingredients bought in the Japanese shop.
The first one to introduce in this post is Onishime, a dish of sweet, soy-simmered root vegetables. You may prepare nishime in infinite ways, varying the mix and ratio of vegetables, and many families have their own favorite recipes, passed down from generation to generation…. but here is most simple one that I cooked.
Ingredients (3 servings)
3 chicken fillets chopped
Sesame oil for frying
10 Chinese peas cut in half
1 carrot, sliced
1/2 konyaku, teard into peieces
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water until tender, and sliced
1/4 lotus roots, sliced
* Italics: speciality food to be bought in Japanese shop
3 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs sugar
4 tbs cooking sake
Dashi: 1 cup water + 1 tsp dashi stock
1. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces. Chop up the vegetables as indicated in the ingredients
2. In a large pot, fry the chicken in oil until light brown.
3. Add dashi, mushrooms, konnyaku, carrots, and lotus roots.
4. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Add soy sauce, sake, sugar, cover and cook until soup is nearly gone
6. Garnish with Chinese peas, cool it to soak the flavors, and serve
About Konnyaku… I think this mysterious food deserves some explanation for its own. Konnyaku is a traditional Japanese jelly-like health food made from a kind of potato called “Konnyaku potato” which has been consumed as a part of important Japanese dishes for over 2000 years. The texture is bit like gummy bear, the flavor is not so strong, but it’s rich in dietary nutrition, also good for diet!