Ozoni – Japanese New Year Soup
I went to Hiroshima as a young bride three decades ago, and soon met Mr Uno in Hiroshima, founder of a group preserving old Japanese traditions, culture and customs. Funnily enough I met him through cooking, like I have met so many people over the years!
There were hardly any foreigners in Japan in those days and Hiroshima prefecture was looking for an Indian who could possibly cook for some cultural guests from India who were strict vegetarians. Uno san got in touch with the University and they got hold of Rahim. Here we go! I reluctantly cooked for his thirty guests, two weeks after landing in Japan, with the only Japanese I knew being ‘Konnichiwa’ and ‘Sayonara’! He introduced me to old Japanese culture and took me to traditional ceremonies and festivals in small rural villages and islands around Hiroshima. That friendship lasted for many years until he passed away.
I spent my first new year in Japan with Uno san’s family and that’s when I first got introduced to this New Year’s soup – Ozoni.
New year in Japan is a very special time – it is the most important festival of the year and is celebrated in a very traditional way by families even now. Rice cakes (Omochi) are made ahead and Osechi (food for new year’s day) are prepared and arranged in lacquered boxes in advance.
New Year’s day starts with a visit to the local Shrine followed by this hot Ozoni soup at the family home for breakfast, with everyone sitting around the family table. Each and every region and family have their own version of this new year’s soup, which has been passed down the generations.
Mine is a simple one which I learned from Mrs Uno on my first new year’s morning in Japan, made of grilled omochi (rice cakes), fish slices, taro root, carrot and snow peas all simmered in clear dashi stock.
Wishing you all a happy and prosperous new year.
OZONI – JAPANESE NEW YEAR SOUP
- Dashi (Fish stock) – 800ml
- Soy sauce – 1 tablespoon
- Mirin (sweet rice wine) – 1 teaspoon
- Taro (peeled and cut into slices) – 1
- Carrot (sliced into 3mm thick slices) – 1
- White fleshed fish cut into pieces – 200 g
- Snow peas- a few
- Grilled mochi slices (rice cakes) – 4
- Boil taro pieces in salted water until it starts to soften, drain and keep aside.
- Boil dashi stock in a sauce pan along with soy sauce and mirin, add cooked taro pieces, carrot slices and fish pieces. Simmer gently and cook for a five minutes.
- Remove the soup from the fire add snow piece slices.
- Serve in a bowls with grilled mochi pieces and thinly cut lemon peel.