Sunday, January 01, 2012


Happy New Year!

I've been meaning to blog about our relief work, and Christmas, and something else that I can't seem to remember right now... but I've been busy with this. By "this" I mean Osechi, the Japanese New Year's feast... as well as a whole bunch of other cooking projects (granola, bbq sauce, etc.) I love vacation! By "vacation" I mean staying at home with nothing in particular that I have to do...

I guess part of my fixation with traditional foods, clothing, and music in Japan is that we don't have much of that in my home country. Everything came from somewhere else. Thus I'm really enjoying learning about traditions here. I also really appreciate the Japanese attentiveness to seasonal foods. Oh, and bento boxes. I love those. Thus making osechi (the mother-of-all-bentos) is a no-brainer for me.

I started working on the contents of our osechi boxes several days in advance. Now we have enough to feed an army. Yesterday (January 31) I completed the contents and arranged everything in the boxes.

Getting started: everything in place to make Osechi! Seasoning ingredients, big pot of dashi, cutting board, utensils, cookbook... and Japanese dictionary!
Updated kitchen picture, about lunch time.
I started with nimono dishes--here are carrot and lotus root flowers. The leftover bits after the decorative cuts became carrot furikake (topping for rice).
Another nimono dish: konnyaku--a glutinous jello-like food made from some kind of yam.
To keep the nimono under the surface of the stewing liquid, I used an otoshibuta (literally "dropped lid").
Datemaki--eggs and fish (tai) blended until smooth (with lots of sugar), then baked and rolled. I thought it failed, but surprisingly it didn't!
Making tea eggs: lightly crack boiled eggs, then stew them with tea and orange peel.
Kinchaku: mochi, ginger, and green onion-stuffed tofu skins, stewed in soy sauce and other good things.
Kitchen update shot, after everything was finished (11 p.m.)
Keith: Can we go to bed yet? (12:18 a.m.)
Almost done arranging everything in the box...

Top tier dishes are "festive" and sweet foods: datemaki, kamaboko (the white and pink fish cakes), kuromame (sweet black beans), tatakigobo (burdock root), and kurikinton (mashed sweet potatoes with chestnuts)
Middle tier foods are savory and sour things: salmon, namasu (daikon and carrot pickle salad), and kinchaku
The bottom tier consists of various kinds of nimono.
I'm tired!
The finished box waits in the genkan (entryway) because it's cold there... and because the refrigerator is too full. Next to it is the leftover cooking liquid for nimono. I can reuse it for soups and things like that.
"After" picture: I think I'll deal with the mess in the morning...
On a not-entirely-unrelated note, here is my toshikoshi soba--traditional soba soup for New Year's Eve. We'll get around to ozoni sometime the next few days.
Keith was hungry! (Yet another shot of the messy kitchen with osechi in progress...)

In other food-related news... I got a bunch of new cookbooks! Here's my first meal out of "安い冬のおかず" (Cheap winter dishes):

Kimchi nabe! It fed us for two meals.
There were still leftovers... so we augmented them with a few more vegetables and some egg...
... and made kimchi fried rice! That was our lunch in the middle of all this mess. (Nice wok, eh?)
I also made rolls a couple of days ago. Definitely starting to get used to my oven.

あけましておめでとうございます! (Happy New Year!)

p.s. We've now been working at the food in the boxes for 2 meals... and it will last for at least one more before we even get to the extras in the fridge... :)

1 comment:

M.J. said...

Wow I love this post! You are such a foodie!

Here's an idea for you, which I have an ulterior motive for: write out some recipes of ethnic dishes you think Americans will like, that are not too hard to make and that involve foods we could find in the U.S.! I would enjoy trying to make some authentic Japanese dishes in order to feel closer to you guys and the work you're doing there.