The Japanese new year celebration is all about attracting luck and prosperity and food makes no exception: so much that there is a word for the food ensemble of January 1, osechi ryori.
The traditional meal of the Japanese new year is called osechi (おせち), and it’s served in lacquered boxes (jubako) that are usually passed down in the family. Each food of the osechi has different meanings.
The jubako can consist of 2-3 layers and in each layer there are various dishes, divided into small portions.
Not to be missed foods in the jubako
Daidai (橙) is the Japanese bitter orange. Daidai means “from generation to generation”, it symbolizes a wish for the children in the new year.
Datemaki (伊达巻 or 伊達巻き) is a sweet rolled omelette mixed with fish paste or shrimp puree. It symbolises an auspicious wish.
Kamaboko (蒲鉾)is the roasted fish pie. Traditionally, the red and white slices of the kamaboko are alternated in rows or arranged in a pattern. The color and shape are reminiscent of the rising sun in Japan, and have a celebratory meaning.
Kazunoko (数の子) is the herring roe. Kazu means “number” and ko means “child”. It symbolizes the desire to have numerous children in the new year.
Konbu (昆布) is a type of seaweed. Associated with the word yorokobu, it means joy.
Kuro-mame (黒豆) or black soy means health.
Tai (鲷) or sea bream is associated with the Japanese word medetai, and symbolizes an auspicious event.
Tazukuri (田作り) are dried sardines cooked in soy sauce. The symbolism is of a bountiful harvest.
Ebi (エビ) or shrimp, on skewers cooked with sake and soy sauce.
Nishiki Tamago (锦卵), or egg rolls; the egg is separated before cooking, the yellow symbolizes gold, and the white symbolizes silver.
Soup and dessert
And finally ozoni (お雑煮) which is a soup, which preparation varies according to the region and the family traditions. However, there are usually two styles. The Kanto style has a dashi base flavored with bonito and soy sauce. To that, squares of mochi are added. The Kansai version has a Sahi base enriched with kombu and white miso, also accompanied with mochi, but with a round shape.
Then there’s oshiruko (おしるこ) which consists of a bowl of a creamy sweet soup of red beans, eaten hot with grilled mochi.