here we are again, another year has begun.
year of the dragon.
every new year, my Oba-chan (Japanese grandmother) would make us a special soup called o-zoni, which usually contained a grilled rice-cake or two, some vegetables, mainly daikon and carrots in miso... there is also a typical new year tradition of making o-sechi ryouri but since we were such difficult eaters, Oji-chan and Oba-chan had that mostly for themselves, and only in later years did my brother and i learn to appreciate this.
we were huge fans, however, of o-zoni, which in our house was made with miso (hence the latter half of this blog s name) and is apparently more traditional in western parts of Japan, whereas the clear soup; suimono, is more the norm in eastern Japanese households. in both cases though, the chewy rice cake or mochi, either grilled or just plain, is added to the soup.
we would have been making the mochi at my great-aunt s house and there was always too much, but it was so much fun hitting the steamed glutinous rice in a huge stone mortar with enormous wooden hammers and trying not to hit the hands of the person who had to fold the mass and add some water to keep the whole thing from sticking.
recently i found some pictures from way back when of us doing just that.
here s my brother
boy, that does bring back memories.
and memories were exactly what prompted me to make that o-zoni yesterday morning to ring in the new year.
i must admit i haven t made miso-shiru (miso-soup) at home in a very very long time. but i do always have the ingredients in my cupboard, so i really can t say what kept me.
a few weeks ago, i had also been lucky enough to find dried rice cakes at the Chinese supermarket. i guess this was the trigger for me to try and make the o-zoni my Oba-chan used to make.
i wanted to recapture those moments, and especially the taste, and the textures...
OBA-CHAN no O-ZONI (Grandma s o-zoni)
10 cm piece of daikon or white retich
1 fairly thick carrot (although mine was a bit thin)
a few rice-cakes, either grilled or not
a few mangetout peas
1 liter water
1 tablespoon dashi stock granules
2 tablespoons white miso paste
Oba-chan used to just slice the daikon and the carrot into thick matchsticks, but i wanted to make those pretty flowers, and after having used a cookie cutter i realized mine had 6 petals instead of the more auspicious 5... but hey, they were cute enough ;-)
boil the root vegetables in the water with the dashi stock granules until soft. if not grilled, add the dried ricecakes and cook until pliable, then add the mangetout and cook until al dente. if the rice-cakes have been grilled, add them with the mangetout. turn off the heat and mix the miso paste with some of the stock until blended, then add into the rest of the stock. do not boil anymore, just heat through.
arrange the vegetables in a miso-bowl, and finish with some mitsuba leaves, which i did not have, so i used coriander. some people like to add some shichimi (seven-spice) and/or some yuzu at the end for extra flavor.
this one though, tasted exactly like my Oba-chan s... and that s good enough for me.
Oba-chan passed away in 1993, but Oji-chan is still going strong at 102. i hope he s enjoying some o-zoni as well and remembering...
New Year 1970... Oji-chan, Oba-chan and moi
Happy New Year everyone!