New Year’s dishes

Yusuke and I shared a quiet New Year’s Eve at home, and he made us a lovely feast for the occasion. He said that the components of the menu didn’t really match, as it turned out to be a combination of stuff that we wanted to finish off from the fridge. Oh, well.

soba

The most important part was the soba—thin buckwheat noodles. Soba is traditionally eaten in Japan for New Year’s, with the noodles symbolizing good luck for long life. This batch was a gift from my mother-in-law. It can be eaten in many different ways, but in this case, Yusuke boiled the noodles without sauce and then arranged them on a plate. We each had a bowl of dipping sauce made from soy sauce, sugar, mirin, sake, dashi, and a tiny bit of salt. We mixed in fresh green onions and either wasabi or ginger.

The eating procedure is to take a good amount of noodles from the plate, dip them into the bowl briefly (being sure to catch some green onions), and then slurp them into your mouth. I’m still working on my slurping technique.

Note also the lovely small white dish and blue bowl: Christmas presents from my mom.

tako salad

Earlier in the day, Yusuke had said that pickled tako (octopus) was a typical food eaten at New Year’s. I saw some at the grocery store, so I bought it, sort of as a joke. But then we had to use it! Hmm. Yusuke made this beautiful salad, inspired by a recipe found online.

First he chopped the tako, rubbed the surface with salt, and rinsed it. Then he boiled the pieces in water and a bit of ginger ale. The latter was in lieu of club soda, which he had read helps to tenderize the octopus. The cooked tako was mixed with chopped raw vegetables: white onions, celery, and cherry tomatoes. I believe that his recipe called for parsley instead of celery, but we wanted to use the monster stalk left over from our Christmas dinner. The salad dressing was 55 mL of rice wine vinegar, a bit of olive oil, and salt & pepper.

The final dish for New Year’s Eve was very simple: boiled pieces of cabbage with some of the sauce used for the soba, garnished with bonito flakes. I had been craving cabbage and ate about 5 servings.

On New Year’s Day, the special foods continued. The first dish was mashed sweet potatoes with sugar. Yusuke thinks he used about half a cup of superfine sugar. Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite match the sugar that would be used in Japan, which to all accounts gives a greater depth of flavour. This represented the New Year’s dish kurikinton, which should be made with either mashed chestnuts or a combination of sweet potatoes and chestnuts.

The main attraction was ozōni (お雑煮), which is essential to Japanese New Year’s. The soup had spinach, daikon, carrots, shitake mushrooms, and chicken. The broth consisted of sake, soy sauce, salt, and dashi. It was so flavourful that it was hard to believe that it was that simple. The mochi was added last, wonderfully sticky and filling.

We also had leftover tako for lunch, which was dipped in wasabi and soy sauce. Yum.

All-in-all, these were meals to promote a healthy and lucky start to 2010.

Yusuke also broke open his Christmas/birthday package of dorayaki on New Year’s Eve. So. Good.

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2 Comments

  1. Paige said

    I’ll have to see if the local Asian supermarket carries pickled octopus – I have a feeling I’d really enjoy that salad. Best of everything in 2010!

  2. Megan said

    Happy New Year to you, too! If you can’t find pre-pickled octopus, you can use fresh and add lots of vinegar.

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