Blackcabbit's World

Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.

Osechi Ryori – The Dishes of Wishes

おせち料理Osechi Ryori (おせち料理) is a collective set of auspicious delicacies with symbolic meanings, beautifully arranged in Jubako (重箱/ tiered lacquer boxes), and is meant to be eaten on Japanese New Year. The festive dishes are finished prepared on Omisoka (New Year’s Eve), so that the womenfolks can rest and enjoy the festive period with their families.

Japanese New Year FoodAs there are many types of dishes in the Osechi Ryori, to cook them all by herself/himself can be overwhelming for any house-cook. Therefore, like what my MIL usually do, many households will cook some dishes while the rest are ready-made ones that are available in supermarkets. (See above CO-OP ad for example)

New Year FoodSome families may prefer to order their Osechi meals from stores like the ones from AEON (see above ad) and have them directly delivered to their homes in time for New Year.

A complete set of Osechi Ryori consists of the following:

Otoso (お屠蘇/ spiced alcohol)
Zoni (雑煮/ rice cake soup)
Iwai Sakana Sansyu (祝い肴三種/ 3 types of festive appetizers)
Kuchitori (口取り/ side dishes)
Sunomono (酢の物/ vinegared or pickled dishes)
Yakimono (焼き物/ grilled dishes)
Nimono (煮物/ stewed dishes)

[Special note: The dishes listed below is by no means exhaustive. These are the ones that my MIL (& her mum) had included for our Osechi Ryori. There may be a wide variety of ingredients/dishes that I have yet to know, especially the ones that are particular to a region.]

お屠蘇*雑煮 – Spiced Alcohol & Mochi Soup

Otoso (お屠蘇) is spiced sake (alcohol), which adults will drink in hope to prevent illness. Personally, I have yet to taste it or seen it before.

雑煮Zoni (雑煮) is a special New Year soup that contains mochi (rice cake), vegetables, chicken (or seafood) etc. Since our family stays in the Kanto region (Eastern Japan), we uses Kiri mochi (切り餅 / rectangularly-cut rice cakes) in clear soup stock seasoned with soy sauce. Whereas, the Kansai region (Western Japan) prefers round mochi and white miso (bean-paste) flavored soup.
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祝い肴三種 – 3 Types of Festive Appetizers

田作りTazukuri (田作り) is a dish of small dried anchovies (or sardines) simmered in soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine) and sugar, until the liquid is almost entirely absorbed. As small fishes were used to fertilize rice fields, this dish of sweetened dried anchovies is eaten in hope for a bountiful harvest.
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黒豆Kuromame (黒豆/ black beans) share the same homonym with Mame “まめ” (忠実) that means hardworking, healthy, or devoted. As the Japanese eat the kuromame, they ask for “まめまめしく、健康で働けるように,” meaning that they hope to work diligently and faithfully, while being blessed with good health. In Kansai (Western Japan), Gobo (ごぼう/burdock) is used instead.
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数の子Kazunoko (数の子/ herring roe) represents the hope of having many descendants.
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口取り – Side Dishes

Kamaboko (蒲鉾/ processed fish paste) are usually in red and white, which are colors for festive or auspicious occasions. Its shape is to represent the Hatsuhi (初日/New Year’s Day sunrise). Oddly, my MIL never include this dish. I wonder why…(See CO-OP ad above for an example of it)

伊達巻きDatemaki (伊達巻き) is my favorite O-sechi dish. The rolled omelette (mixed with fish paste), is said to resemble the ancient scrolls. It reflects the desires for more knowledge. During Edo period, stylish-dressed men were called Datemono (伊達者). Since the sweet cake-like roll looks pretty dandy, and is said to look similar to the Datemono’s kimono, so it became known as “Datemaki”.
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Kelp RollKonbu Maki (昆布巻き/ kelp roll) is a dish with a sliced of fish (usually dried herring) wrapped in Konbu seaweed. “Konbu” kinda reminds the Japanese of “Yorokobu” (喜ぶ/ to be pleased; delightful; glad). And with further wordplay, the same pronunciation with a different kanji (characters) – 養老昆布, make this dish a lucky charm for perpetual youth and longevity.
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栗金団The Kuri Kinton (栗金団/ chestnut + mashed sweet potato) is likened to a shining treasure of gold because of its color. The sweet dish symbolizes hopes for wealth and prosperity. Btw, sugar used to be really expensive in Olden Japan. Despite of that, the Kuri-kinton was cooked with large amount of the precious, valuable sugar.
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酢の物 – Vinegared Dishes

Pickled Radish carrotKohaku Namasu (紅白なます/ pickled radish & carrot) with its auspicious red and white colors, symbolizes the wish for peace.
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Chrysanthemum turnipsKikka Kabu (菊花かぶ) are pickled turnips sliced/cut in a way to resemble a Chrysanthemum, which is a symbol for Omedetai ( おめでたい/ auspicious; happy). And Japanese believe that turnip is best eaten in winter.
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SurenkonSu Renkon (酢れんこん) is pickled lotus root. Cut sections of a renkon has many holes, (symbolically speaking) will reveal the good future.
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Osechi ryoriOther sunomono that my MIL loves to include for our family are Sudako (酢だこ/ vinegared octopus) and Shime Saba(しめ鯖/ vinegared mackerel), mainly because they are tasty. :P
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焼き物 – Grilled dishes

OsechiEbi (海老/ prawn; shrimp; lobster;crayfish) symbolizes longevity because it’s body is curved, like an old man with a bent back.

Other grilled dishes may include Tai (鯛/ sea bream) or Buri (鰤/ Japanese amberjack) etc.
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煮物 – Stewed Dishes

煮しめNishime (煮しめ) is a simmered dish with many vegetables (i.e. carrot, daikon, lotus root, konnyaku, bamboo, mushroom etc.) Each ingredient may have its own auspicious meanings but collectively, the dish represents Kanai Anzen (家内安全/ well-being or safety of one’s family).

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RELATED LINK:

Japanese Annual Events (Main Page)

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This entry was posted on January 1, 2012 by in Festivals / Holidays, Food / Recipe, Life in Japan and tagged , .
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