Here’s another new year post but one with the host folks and their family all together at home. On New Year, many families traditionally feat new year food, known as osechi お節. Nowadays, items considered “osechi” can be practically anything as long as it is specially prepared for the new year. Things to be eaten also depends on the family as well as the region so what I had might be totally different from the stuff families eat in Tokyo but they all have one thing in common: eating them will bring some sort of good luck, wealth, good health… all the new year goodies.
You can get fancy osechi boxes prepared by various companies before New Year and they cost anywhere between 3000-20000 yen depending on what you want in it. For the amount and type of food you get (bits of dried fish, pickled veggies, boiled seafood, etc), it pretty much amounts to one giant expensive bento. Here we have konbu in green tea because “konbu” is associated with “yorokobu” 喜ぶ (Joy). The pun apparently is よろこんぶ. I tied those knots and the green tea just unloosened them up the next second XD
My host mom called this tataki (something grilled/seared on just the surface but the inside still raw) but didn’t specify the fish name. I am guessing it was tuna. That whole block looks appetizing doesn’t it?! Despite being drenched with “tataki sauce”, the meat was still very fishy!
And the whole table is set! Instead of eating with regular chopsticks, specially packaged “new year chopsticks” are used with the name of the person written on the paper.
The variety might not be much but considered what was on my plates, I was glad there wasn’t more >_>. I forgot what the round thing with the stem is called but my host mom said I have to eat the whole thing – including the stem – or I wouldn’t come out on top or something. The yellow “slice” that looks fruit? That’s kazunoko… it’s actually fish eggs. Eat that if you want good (or a lot of) offspring. I had to eat the ENTIRE shrimp as well, including the head and shells. It was very counter-intuitive to how I’ve been eating shrimp (peeling the shell and tearing the head off) but it wasn’t too bad. The kohakunamasu… pickled daikon, some red veggie (doesn’t seem to be carrot), and yuzu peel in a sweet vinegar made tangy by the yuzu. Needless to say, I had a really difficult time eating and finishing all of the items (and the tataki!) but I somehow I did managed to do it. It took me three bowls of rice to chase down all the food above…
This was a more favorable dish – chawanmushi, a steamed “egg custard” with a load of stuff inside like beans, carrot, lily bulbs, and a giant slice of kamaboko (fish cake).
It was nice experiencing yet another Japanese tradition but I can definitely say this meal was the toughest to swallow so far in Japan ^^;. No questioning the health benefits of these type of food but the taste is definitely an acquired one. The concept of this food tradition is very similar to Chinese New Year’s eating tradition but the food are completely different even though the beliefs are common.
Let’s see how well I’ll do in my classes this term after eating that entire shrimp…