most recipes for osechi ryori (traditional japanese new year’s dishes) make enough to feed a family of four for three days. my family is only two people (paul and i) so far, so i didn’t want to make too much. we were just planning to eat osechi ryori for one day, because we can never do the same thing again and again.
so, i did some research and found a japanese website that shows you how to make osechi ryori for two people. i think it’s kind of romantic…
even though i was just making osechi for two, it took a lot of prep work and cooking to make all the various small dishes. my admiration for my mother’s effort in preparing osechi for my family every year grew and grew…
while i was cooking, i amused myself by thinking about how osechi is actually a bit lame. i might offend some japanese people by saying so, but it’s true. osechi is full of “dajare” (bad puns) and “oyaji-gyagu” (“old man gags”, corny jokes). so many of the dishes have names that are meant to bring health and good luck, but they sound like really bad jokes.
- black beans are “kuro-mame” : “mame ni ikiru” means “live healthy”
- kelp (kobu) : “yorokobu” means joy
- snapper (tai) : “medetai” means joyful, fortunate
- japanese sour orange (“daidai“): “daidai” also means “generation after generation”
- shrimp : we eat shrimp in order to live until our backs are curved with age (shrimp’s back is curved, so…)
- gobo (burdock root) : just like gobo, live thin and long with roots spread in the earth.
…what can i say. it might be hard for english speakers to understand the jokes, but believe me, they’re lame. maybe we’re supposed to start the new year with a good laugh, but i’m not sure if i can laugh without raising my eyebrows a little or thinking of a rimshot at the end of the each joke.
the good thing is, the jokes are so lame that they’re kind of adorable. at least, i’m used to it.
recipes (clockwise from the left of the photo)
- konnyaku 1/2 cake
- soy sauce 2 tbsp
- mirin 1 tbsp
- chili flakes
- sesame oil
- blanch the konnyaku in hot water
- slice the konnyaku (about 7mm). make a cut in the center of the flat surface. take the top and pull it through the hole to make a weave effect.
- heat the oil in a pan. add konnyaku, soy sauce, mirin and chili flakes.
- saute for a couple of minutes, just for flavor
- garnish with carrots cut into decorative flowers
tataki gobo (pounded burdock)
- gobo 2 stalks (thin)
- rice vinegar (dash)
- white sesame seeds 3 tbsp
- sauce: rice vinegar 50ml, mirin 2 tbsp, japanese soup stock 2 tbsp, pinch of salt
- wash gobo, pound it lightly with a rolling pin, and cut into pieces 4-5 cm long. if the pieces are too thick, cut them lengthwise in half
- put the gobo in a small pot, cover with water and add vinegar. bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, until soft. drain.
- toast white sesame seeds in a pan. cool, then grind.
- add the ingredients for the sauce to a pan, bring them to a boil. add the gobo and cook until the liquid reduces by half.
- turn off the heat. add the white sesame.
- garnish with snow peas
kobu maki (kelp roll)
i improvised this one, so if i remember correctly…
- kelp 2 x 10cm cut pieces, soak in a water for about 10 mins. save the water
- kanpyo, soak in water for 5 mins
- gobo, 4 small pieces (saved from the tataki gobo recipe after blanching)
- carrot, 4 small pieces, blanched
- sauce: soy sauce 2 tbsp, sugar 2 tbsp, sake 1 tbsp
- put two sticks each of gobo and carrot on top of a sheet of kelp and roll it
- tie the kelp roll with a short strip of kanpyo. trim off the uneven ends
- place the rolls in a pan. cover them with the water used for soaking the kelp
- simmer on low heat for 20 minutes or so
- add the sauce and simmer for 15 minutes