Like the new year in other countries, the new year in Japan is also celebrated in a special way. One of them is the food. Osechi ryori is a beautiful and delicious traditional Japanese New Year’s meal. This food is usually eaten during the first three days of the new year.
This tradition has existed since the Heian period. There are many types of food. Here are some typical New Year’s foods in Japan that you must try if you are on vacation in Japan later.
This New Year’s specialty in Japan looks very similar to tamago yaki, which is a Japanese egg roll. However, when you taste it, you will know the difference. Datemaki is a sweet rolled omelet.
Datemaki is fluffier than tamago yaki because it is made with an additional ingredient called hanpen or fish cake.
In the past, the Japanese traditionally rolled important documents or paintings. Being similar in appearance to rolled paper, the dish is said to represent a desire for cultural development and learning.
- Toshikoshi Soba
Toshikoshi soba is buckwheat noodle soup, and long noodles symbolize the wish for a long life. Soba noodles are usually served on New Year’s Eve in its simplest form, namely soba soba noodles served in hot dashi broth with finely chopped scallions.
But the tradition of Toshikoshi Soba can be varied by adding tempura, fish balls, or raw eggs. This dish is usually on New Year’s Eve before midnight or on New Year’s Day. Like most Japanese New Year’s dishes, Toshikoshi Soba also has a symbolic meaning.
The most common explanation for the meaning of these noodles is that the long shape of the noodles symbolizes the transition from one year to the next. It is also said that because noodles are easy to cut, it symbolizes the regret of the past year.
- Kuri Kinton
Kuri Kinton is a Japanese New Year’s specialty in which candied chestnuts and golden sweet potatoes are mashed together with candied chestnut syrup to make a sweet and creamy treat. Besides being unique and this food is usually served only once a year.
This dish with its golden yellow color symbolizes the wish for prosperity in the new year. literally, kuri kinton means mashed golden chestnut, its bright color, golden yellow symbolizes economic prosperity and wealth.
Ever heard of taiyaki, that fish-shaped cake? Well, this New Year’s food in Japan is actually fish, not cake. Tai or sea bream is the ingredient for this dish. Fish cleaned and grilled whole.
Generally this fish is served for New Year celebrations, but also for birthday celebrations and other events. This fish sits in the middle among other traditional Japanese New Year foods. Tai is placed separately from the box containing the osechi ryori (New Year’s meal).
The name of this food can be included in the phrase ‘omedetai’, which means ‘seawater fish are safe’ or ‘I want to congratulate you.’ It is recommended to stare at the seawater fish for a while before consuming it for full auspicious effects.
Oh yes, this fish is not a ‘red snapper’, even though it looks similar. This is sea bream. You won’t get much luck from snapper, so don’t be fooled.
Kamaboko is a fish cake that has two colors of red and white fish paste. So, red and white are the traditional New Year’s colors in Japan. These two colors represent the rising sun and together have a festive meaning which is just right for an osechi ryori celebration dish.
These colorful Japanese fishcakes are available all over the country and are made with a pureed white seawater fish called surimi. Then the material is usually shaped into a cake or bread shape with an oval shape with a rounded top, steamed on a wooden board.
Once fully cooked, the cake is then sliced before serving. Usually Kamaboko is served with various dipping sauces or served in hot soups and noodle dishes, such as ramen. Kamaboko cakes are also a popular gift and an important part of osechi-ryōri.
Narutomaki is one of the most popular variations of kamaboko, known for its pink or red spiral pattern that represents Japan’s impressive tidal whirlpool. Naruto kamaboko is the most commonly found topping on Japanese noodles such as Tokyo-style ramen.
Tazukuri when translated directly, which is dry and sweet baby sardines, means farming rice. So what is the relationship between sardines, rice and agriculture? So, in the past, dried sardines were used by Japanese farmers as fertilizer for their rice fields.
Another name is gomame, which literally means “50,000 grains of rice” and this stems from the fact that sardine fertilizers can produce an enormous rice harvest. Since then, the tazukuri has become a symbol of a good harvest for the year ahead.
- Kuromame, Otafuku-mame
This is the name of two types of beans. Kuromame and otafuku-mame are traditionally served as Japanese New Year’s dishes. Kuromame are boiled black beans with a sweet taste, while otafuku-mame are larger chickpeas cooked until soft and sweet.
“otafuku” he says sounds similar to the phrase “lots of luck”, while “mame” which means “bean” sounds similar to the Japanese words “diligent” and “good health”.
Kazunoko which is herring roe is a food that also uses Japanese word play. ‘Kazu’ means numbers while ‘ko’ means children. So, kazunoko means to symbolize being blessed with many children.
Interestingly, another reason for using herring is because it is called ‘nishin’ in Japanese, but when written with a different kanji, it becomes ‘二 ‘ (ni shin), which means two parents.
Salted herring roe is usually marinated in dashi broth. This yellow egg is slightly elongated and filled with small round eggs that pop and give off a salty taste when eaten.
Usually in Japan herring roe is salted and then soaked in dashi broth, which is often seasoned with Japanese soy sauce, seaweed, and bonito flakes. Kazunoko is one of the important dishes served during Japanese New Year celebrations.
Ozoni is a dish consisting of a clear broth seasoned with Japanese soy sauce and miso, and served with rice cakes and grilled mochi vegetables. Throughout Japan there are different types of ozoni in each region.
In the Kanto region, zōni is usually served with a clear dashi broth flavored with fish flakes. While in Kansai it is customary to use an opaque broth flavored with white miso.
The choice of toppings and the shape of the chewy mochi cake is also regionally specific and it is possible to add fish balls, chicken, radish and even various seafood ingredients in some coastal areas to the soup.
Zōni was originally believed to appear as a nutritious dish in traditional samurai cuisine. Then incorporated into the Japanese New Year’s tradition and now this food is usually served as a New Year’s breakfast meal.
This Japanese New Year’s specialty is an unusual dessert because it combines thick red bean soup with mochi. How to make it is by boiling dry red beans or diluting anko, which is sweet red bean paste, in water.
Zenzai can be added in different flavors such as orange zest, but usually the puree should be soft and earthy with a hint of sweetness. Before serving, hot mochi cakes are added to this delicious soup dessert.
- Kinpira Gobo
It literally means ‘gold flat burdock’. This food is a side dish that is popular in Japan. This dish is often used to put in bento boxes, and is made with burdock, which is a type of taproot.
Burdock is rich in fiber, vitamin B-6, potassium and magnesium, and besides being good for health, burdock has a very crunchy texture and earthy taste. When it is converted into kinpira, people become addicted to eating it.
Spelled kombu, these Japanese rolled Konbu are called kobumaki. This seaweed is cooked in a sweet and salty sauce. This dish is part of the Osechi Ryori. Kobumaki is one of the most traditional and important dishes although there are many types of Osechi dishes.
Like many other dishes in Osechi, Kobumaki is also heavily seasoned to last for several days during Japan’s holiday season. Every Osechi Ryori dish has a meaning.
Kobumaki symbolizes happiness because the word ‘kobu’ sounds like ‘yorokobu’, the Japanese word for happy. Therefore, kobumaki is considered a food that brings good luck.
Well, those are 12 typical New Year’s foods in Japan that are quite diverse and seem very delicious. This food also turned out to symbolize something, a kind of good wishes in the year to come. Which food are you interested in trying?