Osechi Ryo-ri (御節料理)
Osechi Ryo-ri is a subset of Japanese cuisine made up of dishes that are traditionally eaten on Osho-gatsu (New Year’s). Since it was historically taboo to cook on New Year’s day, Osechi dishes are typically stewed with lots of sugar, or they are vinegared to preserve them. There’s a huge variety of dishes, each one, a symbolic wish for things like long life, wealth, fertility, and happiness. The food is then meticulously plated in a 2-3 tiered lacquered box called a ju-bako, which the whole family eats from.
Datemaki is sweet rolled omelet mixed with fish paste. They symbolize the shining sun, a wish for many auspicious days ahead. On auspicious days (hare-no-hi), Japanese people traditionally wear fine clothing as a part of enjoying themselves. One of the meanings associated with the second kanji includes “fashionability,” derived from the illustrious dress of the samurai from Date han (situated in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture Japan).
These sweet golden rounds of egg omelet have a ribbed outer surface mimicking the shining sun, a wish for sunny days ahead.
Ebi no Onigara-Yaki is one of the very important and most well-known dish in Osechi Ryo-ri, simply grilled with a brush of soy and mirin. Like in any other country, prawn is very popular for all ages and different kinds of prawns may be used in Osechi Ryo-ri, like king prawns, tiger prawns, scampi and lobsters. In Osechi Ryo-ri, because their shape is similar to that of an older person they represent longevity.
Also, their color change to red when they are cooked, it is believed that the red color is the color against evil spirits.
Kohaku-Namasu, literally “red-white vegetable” is made of daikon white radish and carrot cut into thin strips and pickled in sweetened vinegar.
This dish is traditionally made with carrots and daikon, The combination of red and white is the color for celebration and is a recurring theme in many osechi dishes and symbolizes happiness and celebration.
Kuromame is black soybeans simmered with sugar and soy sauce. Aside from being full of nutrients, this dish also symbolizes good health, as “mame” which means bean, sounds like another word that means hard work and good health.
This is a very simple dish, but represents many hopes and wishes for years ahead.
Kuri Kinton (栗金飩)
Kuri Kinton is sweetened and mashed Japanese sweet potatoes with sweet chestnuts. The characters for kinton literally mean “group of gold”, so with the golden color of this sweet, it represents a wish for wealth and financial success in the new year.
Buri Teriyaki (ブリ照焼き)
Buri Teriyaki is one of the most well-known Japanese dish, teriyaki with buri, kingfish.
In 17th century, the Edo period in Japan, name of person changes in accordance to promotion in the society. This theory has been put to some of fish family and buri kingfish is one of them.
In Japan, name of Kingfish changes according to their size in growth.
Less than 15 cm: Wakashi
15 cm – 40 cm : Inada
40 cm – 90 cm : Hamachi
More than 90 cm : Buri
Those fish family which change name as they grow bigger are called “shusse-uo”, translate to “rising promotion fish” in Japanese. For this reason, kingfish is treated auspicious and used to celebrate new start of any point of life.
Aigamo Ro-su (合鴨ロース)
Aigamo Ro-su tender dock breast is marinated in soy, mirin and sake to absorb the flavor, then slow cooked to keep maximum juiciness.
In Japan, there is a phrase “taste of duck” which means specially delicious. Since long time ago, people has been fascinated by the taste of duck.
People in Japan have been enjoying not only its taste and mellow mouth feelings but also as a great source of energy.
Remember, a new year in Japan is different from Aussie new year on a beach in summer. 1st of January in Japan could be coldest day of a year. They need more energy to keep them warm on a cold snowing day…
O-Zōni Finally, no Osechi Ryo-ri would be complete without o-zoni, a ubiquitous soup with rice cake that has about as many variations as there are cities in Japan. Everything from the stock, to the seasoning to the ingredients that’s inside varies, but one common thread is that it always has a piece of mochi (sticky rice cake) inside. The clear soup is made from dashi broth taken from katsuo dried bonito flakes, kombu kelp, shiitake mushroom and hint of sake.
Nigiri Sushi (握り寿司)
Nigiri Sushi Nowadays, the word “Sushi” can be found in anywhere in the world. However, do you know what the meaning of the word “Sushi” is? Also, Did you know they can be written in two different ways in Japanese letter?
“Sushi” can be written as「鮨」and「寿司」in Japanese. The first letter 「鮨」consists of 2 letters, “Fish” and “Delicious”. From that reason, the word “Sushi” means delicious piece of fish (seafood in general).
The second letter「寿司」came from when and how sushi had been eaten in Japan, Traditionally, sushi has been eaten at occasions for celebrations, such as new years, birth celebrations, promotions, achievements and so on. For this reason, “Sushi” is a symbolic food for celebrations in Japan.
You may image “Sushi Rolls” when you see the word “Sushi”. If so, your “Sushi” is 「寿司」(food for celebration), not 「鮨」(delicious piece of fish)