Mochi is an insanely popular Japanese confection. Though it can be enjoyed year round, mochi is an important part of celebrating the new year in Japan.
The word mochi sounds like the Japanese term for "to have" or "to hold,” and so eating mochi is said to help you achieve good fortune during the new year. Traditionally, New Year's kinako mochi are covered in a roasted soybean powder.
One type of mochi, called kagami mochi is used to decorate for New Year’s. Two stacked, rounded mochi with a bitter orange or daidai on top, kagami mochi is a kind of offering that goes on a home’s Shinto altar.
When it comes to mochi-related, New Year’s festivities, many communities have traditional rice-pounding tournaments called mochitsuki taikai. Those who attend these events can sample a variety of the freshly made mochi—and hopefully gain some good luck!
Datemaki is a sweet rolled omelet that’s mixed with a savory paste. The wavy border and inner swirl of datemaki kind of makes it look like a naruto or “fish cake,” which is interesting since there’s fish in the dish.
Datemaki is mostly made of egg, while the sweetness comes from a mixture of honey, mirin, and soy sauce, along with a square of white fish cake called hanpen, which makes the dish fluffier.
This sweet and savory roll is an osechi ryori because it resembles a rolled scroll, symbolizing academic prowess or success with studying.
Simple version of Kabu no Sunomono, pickled Turnip
Kabu-no-sunomono is a Japanese New Year’s dish made from a pickled baby turnip.The turnip, a hearty root vegetable, is first shaved into thin slices and is sometimes plated to look like a chrysanthemum flower. The chrysanthemum a symbol of the emperor in Japan and is used to celebrate happy occasions.
The pickling liquid used to make kabu-no-sunomono is typically composed of vinegar, salt, and sugar. A chili pepper is added to the middle of the shaped turnip to give it a pop of spice and color, and make it more closely resemble a flower. More commonly though, thin sheets of pickled turnip are more simply plated.
Not only is kabu-no-sunomono pretty to look at, it’s bright, vinegary flavor is punchy and delicious.
Osechi Ryouri dish: Kuri Kinton
5. Kuri Kinton
Kuri kinton, which means “chestnut gold mash,” is a dish made from candied chestnuts called kuri and mashed Japanese sweet potatoes known as satsumaimo. Sweet potatoes from Japan are more yellow than orange and tend to be sweeter than the potatoes most Americans are used to.
To make kuri kinton, the satsumaimo are peeled, cut, and boiled before being mashed or pureed. The chestnuts, which are preserved in a sweet syrup, get added to the potatoes, along with some of their syrup, some salt, and mirin.
The beautiful, yellow-gold color of this dish represents wealth and success—and who wouldn’t want that in the new year?
Japan’s traditional New Year’s foods, whether they’re sweet, savory, or a mix of the two, celebrate the coming of the new year. While the holiday brings together family and friends, the osechi ryori can gift academic success, health, wealth, etc. to those you choose to celebrate with.