To those who are following the lunar calender, Happy Chinese New Year! As I went home this past weekend and consequently ate twice my body weight, I was reminded of special New Years food that my host mom made for me, despite the fact that it was the middle of July! Although Japan doesn’t follow the Lunar calender–they celebrate New Years on January 1st–what better time to introduce a Japanese New Year dish now than waiting 340some days for the next New Year?My host mum wanted me to experience all aspects of Japanese culture, even showing me a drama clip set during New Years time so I could see the kind and sheer amount of food that was prepared, and it was a LOT. So that I could experience firsthand, my host mother spent a day preparing a dish called ozoni ((お雑煮) for dinner.
Here you can see dish in all its glory. The dishware is a special set of lacquer that they use specifically for the New Year meal. ozoni ((お雑煮) is a soup filled with various ingredients, but primarily features mochi rice cakes. Depending on the region and family tradition, each family makes their own ozoni ((お雑煮) slightly differently, differing in ingredients and soup base. You can find out more information about this dish at the Wikipedia article here.
In this closeup shot, you can see each of ingredients my host mum used: vibrant prawns, organic snap peas, elegantly carved flower-shaped carrots, tender meat on the side and even Pikachu designed fishcakes! Where is the mochi, you may be wondering, but do you see that white shape behind the prawns and the PIkachu? That’s where the mochi is hiding. My host mum used the mochi as a stand to arrange the rest of the ingredients.
Even with something as simple as soup, my host mum can turn it into a work of piece. Carefully, she and the other chefs think of their recipients, setting each ingredient this way and that, until the food is visually perfect, delicately arranged.