Omedetou! (Happy New Year!)

Since we've moved down here to Southern California, I've been missing my NorCal roots. Especially the food. There isn't much in the way of Asian food down here. Even to get Asian groceries for the recipes I'm going to share below required a 45 minute drive down to San Diego. So, to comfort myself, indoctrinate my 2 year old and share some Japanese culture with my very WASPy husband I made my favorite parts of a traditional Japanese New Year's breakfast: Ozoni which we had along with some Kuromame. Then for lunch we are having Inari, Teriyaki chicken, and Tempura shrimp and vegetables with Manju for dessert. Enjoy!

Ozoni (mochi soup)
about 4 servings

  • One envelope Dashi
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 can chopped clams or 1 pound fresh Manila clams
  • 1/2 head of napa cabbage
  • 1 pound of ko-mochi (about 8, 2 for each person)
Add the water and dashi to a dutch oven. If you are using canned clams, add the entire contents of the can now. If fresh clams, wait - see rest of directions. Slice the cabbage into about inch and a half slices. Let the leaves fall apart and add to the dashi. Simmer until the cabbage wilts down. Turn the heat down to low and add the ko-mochi so they are not on top of each other. Let sit uncovered until the mochi are soft, about 5-10 minutes. Make sure the broth is no longer bubbling and don't leave the mochi in too long or the mochi will spread out and make a big mess. As soon as the mochi are soft all the way through the soup is ready to serve. If you are using fresh clams, pull out the mochi and set it aside in the serving bowls. Add the clams to the soup and cook until they open. Add the rest of the soup to the mochi already served and top with the fresh clams.

Sushi rice

1 cup short grain rice like Calrose
1 cup sweet rice (mochi-goma)
3 cups water

1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar

Add both types of rice and the water to a rice cooker and cook for the complete cycle. As soon as the cooker goes off, leave it in the cooker - don't open the lid, not even for a peek! Just let it rest for about 15 minutes. During this 15 minutes, add the vinegar and sugar to a small saucepan and cook over low heat just to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and set aside. This mixture cannot be substituted for the sweetened seasoned rice vinegar for a shortcut. It's not the same.

After rice has rested 15 minutes, dump it all out into a very large mixing bowl. You need plenty of room to mix it around. Be very careful of the steam - it will cause severe burns. With a rubber spatula break the rice up a bit, careful not to break the grains. Immediately pour all the vinegar syrup all over the rice and fold it into the rice. Be careful not break the grains. The rice will look too wet, but as it cools and steams out the vinegar will absorb in. Let cool to room temperature about 30 minutes. You can carefully fold the rice around from time to time to aid the cooling.

To handle the rice: Fill a medium mixing bowl about 1/3 to 1/2 full with room temperature water and plenty of salt - it should taste salty like the ocean, just barely saturated . This is what you will keep dipping your hands into to keep it from sticking to your hands. You can shape into onigiri, stuff into inari, roll into rolls or mix in peas, scrambled eggs, mushrooms and red ginger to make chirashi!

Teriyaki marinade

1/2 cup regular soy sauce (not reduced sodium)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sake (regular, dry, not sweet or nigori)
9-10 cloves of garlic
2 t grated fresh ginger

Combine all the ingredients and heat over low heat just enough to dissolve all the sugar. Do not cook off the sake. Cool and add the meat and marinate overnight.

After pulling out the meat to grill or roast, you can bring the marinade just to a boil to use as a sauce. Add another 1/2 cup brown sugar and dissolve to use as a glaze. I would add the glaze after grilling as it will cause a lot of flare ups with the sake and all the sugar.


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