Ozoni: Happy New Year 2010

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In Japan, the new year holiday is called Oshogatsu. Auspicious foods play a role in the festivities. On December 31 people eat toshikoshi soba—long noodles for crossing over to the next year. Traditionally, ozoni ( お雑煮 ) is the first meal of the year. ‘O’ is an honorific, ‘zo’ means “this and that,” and ‘ni’ refers to boiling (nimono). The boiled things include vegetables, and chicken, or seafood. The broth can be made with chicken or pork bones, or dashi, or even a vegetarian with shiitake and konbu. Some people include miso, some add light soy sauce.
No matter what is added, or left out of an ozoni recipe, the one constant thing which makes it ozoni is mochi. The various morsels in the soup are chosen because they symbolize good fortune in the coming year.

Mochi!

Mochi with Soy Sauce and ButterMochi (餅), Japanese rice cake, is made by pounding hot, steamed mochigome (glutinous rice) into paste and molded into round or cut into square cakes. Glutinous rice, sometimes called sweet rice, is used in rice dishes where more stickiness is called for. Traditionally, the cooked rice is pounded with a wooden mallet (kine) in a mortar (usu). Two people alternate the work, one pounding and the other turning and wetting the mochi, keeping a steady rhythm lest they accidentally injure one another with the heavy kine. Most mochi these days is machine made.