Yoshizen's Blog

Japanese New Year’s Cooking = Ozoni

In Japanese New Year, eating Ozoni (rice-cake in soup) has almost ceremonial importance.

Though, the meaning of its name Ozoni (お雑煮) is unceremoniously humble = Jumble soup.

As Japanese staple diet is rice, anything else is accompanying dishes and a soup, since the rice got its own

taste, it has to be individually appreciated = it’s mean, put the rice together with something else is looked

down as jumble, such as Zousui (rice in the soup. —– Put a rice into Miso-soup was called Ojiya and this word

was used to describe a things in a mess = even a design which got few contradictory concept together would

be mocked as  “ It’s an Ojiya”   😀 )

So, to put a (or two) rice cake into a soup is Zoni. (put O to Zoni is a bit more polite expression).

To be a Japanese, it is [the must have cooking] though, there is no fixed style, and the

ingredients of the soup vary a lot, region to region and a family to family. —– nobody knows

the reason why, but in the western Japan (Kansai)  Zouni is based on a Miso-soup and the east of Sekiga-hara,

Zoni is the Kanto style, on a Soy-source based clear soup = Smashi-jiru.  (It’s a fun to know, in the

western Japan,  people makes Ozoni with  round shaped Rice Cake (made like a dumplings)   🙂

As I grown up in Tokyo, my style is Kanto-fu, and this is Yoshizen’s adaptation to make it in England  🙂

The ingredients, photo above are, (from the left) ;

*   Dried Shitake Mushroom, from a Chinese food shop. (from Taiwan seems to be the best )

(Don’t buy so-called fresh Shiitake grown in this country under artificial light = they are tasteless.

Shiitake got to be grown and dried under the strong sun light = Hence they are very rich in Vitamin D)

*   Dried Kombu (Kelp sea-weed) from a Chinese food shop.

*   Lime fruits. ( Yes, Lime —– substitute of Japanese Yuzu Lemon)

*   Glutinous Rice Powder from a Chinese food shop (Must be Glutinous ! )

*   Mangetout Beans (or can be a bunch of Spinach —– to add a green color  🙂 )

*   Onion (one medium size for 4~5 people)

*   Japanese Soy-sauce (Can not be a Chinese Soy-sauce.  It never be the taste same )

*   Chicken (I’m buying Chicken thigh to cut it into small pieces)

Preparation and cooking for 4~5 people ; ( see the photo above)

*   Make Rice-Cake according to the post [Make Rice Cake in 15 minutes] (Please click here)

(Hardest part is to take cooked cake out of a plastic container — cover them with potato starch)

*   Quick flush 5 Dried Shitake Mushrooms under running water, then soak them in the 2 cups of water in a small

pan and heat them ( but not boil —– to soften them.  Keep this water as Dashi !)

*   After well washed, put two of 4 inch square Kombu (Kelp) into 7 inches pan with just enough water to

boil them once.  Drain the water, then put 2 cups of fresh water into the pan and boil.

*   Take softened Shiitake out and cut each of them to 4~6 strips, then put the warm water which the Shitake has

been soaked, into the pan where Kombu has been boiled (now the pan got 4 cups of water).

Boil the Shiitake and Kombu, then put sliced onion too, for another 30 minutes.

*   While Kombu, Shiitake, Onion are boiling, cut the Chicken (2 pieces of thighs) to small pieces and add to the

boiling pan. If you like thick rich taste, use the skin of chicken as well, otherwise remove the skin.

(Of cause, it can be done without Chicken or alternatively, use Fried tofu is an idea for a vegetarian.)

Then boil yet another 10 minutes.

—– As those ingredients acted to make the Soup Dashi as well, the soup is now very tasty.

*   Then put the Soy-sauce according to your taste (in fact a lots,

may be 100 ml ? = 1/10th ~ 1/15th of the amount of the soup)

*    Put prepared Rice Cake (3×2 inches size)  one for each person

—-and Mange tout Bean, then boil further 3 minutes.

*     Make small cut pieces of Lime skin (see the photo left) and

sprinkle them into the soup. (10 pieces like photo is enough)

Then the Ozoni is ready to serve.  🙂

(Everybody must be amazed the tiny amount of the lime skin

Changed the taste so good  !  = this is the Japanese Art of cooking)

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 ( A sort of Health warning )

Never eat Rice Cake in one big chunk —– as they are very chewy and sticky, never attempt to swallow in

big chunk.  It will stuck in your throat (every year tens of the Japanese people died with suffocation)

Otherwise, enjoy an Ozoni  and  have a Happy New Year  🙂

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Make Rice-Cake in 15 Min’

O-Mochi, Japanese Rice-Cake is an essential ingredient in the Japanese New Year.

Without eating it cooked in O-Zouni, we don’t feel New Year has arrived.

As it is deeply imprinted to us with the strongest memory, the taste, it makes a part of the

fundamental Ethos to be a Japanese.  It is in deed, a part of the Collective Subconsciousness.

Imprinted into the subconsciousness almost a hard-wired program, it is the imperative.

( So, the Buddhism is relying on this mechanism of the human psyche )

A matter of fact, Rice-Cake is common in throughout southeast Asia.  Essentially it is a pounded

glutinous rice, hence it is a very very sticky soft cake and some time it was made sweet.

( By the way, when the cell of starch was pounded and broken, the gluten will be released and the long

chain of protein entangled and it become sticky, so that if you pound even baked potato, it

will become very sticky. —- try this in your home  🙂  )

When this rice-cake was dried and baked with soy-source flavor, it become rice-cracker, O-Senbei.

—–

Since I arrived to this country,  I tried to make rice-cake myself. —— I’ve steamed glutinous rice,

or boiled it and try to pound etc etc without success.

Every year when the season came,  I tried different way and on the end,   with a feeling of defeat and

resignation,  I did the most inconceivable cheat (to the Japanese psyche) —– use a glutinous rice powder

just mixed with water and heated in a microwave cooker. —- m m m, wao !  ( not Jaw-Dropping  😀  )

I found supplely sexy white body laying in a rice bowl and she was so soft and sticky  😀

She was a perfect Mochi  😀 ( In reality, I’ve experimented the amount of water and the setting of the

cooker from the Mochi to completely dried up and burned into the rice bowl to a soggy gluey staff)

Since I found this technique,  I accustomed to make the Mochi in a square plastic food container, or make

a mix in a bowl then cover it with prepared Red-bean sweet paste and heat it —- to make an  An-Mochi  🙂

Traditionalist would say, it is a dreadful cheat though —- so far non of the Japanese ever noticed

difference and didn’t aware it until I told them.  ( Anyhow it is the genuine glutinous rice  😀  )

So,  If anybody want to try,  here is the suggestion. You need to get Glutinous Rice Powder from Chinese shop.  One pound bag ( would be about £1 ) may

make more than two-pound ( 1 Kg ) of  Rice-cake.  The size of a cake in the top photo is 2″x1.5″x 0.5″ —–

half of a bag may make 9 of such cakes ( Using 4.5″x 6.5″ food container ) and it would be a good

amount for 3 to 4 people’s meal.  ( One such cake is equivalent to one bowl of a boiled rice ).

To start, mix the powder with small amount of water, then gradually adding the water to make proper mix.

It should be more soggy than a bread making dough.  Still, the mix shouldn’t run down even if the

container was hold 45 degree but it allow the air bubble to come up slowly when you hit the bottom.

( You need to hit many times, and pierce the bubbles —— or it will blow-up when heated  🙂  )

The mix should be less than 1/2″ deep in a container.  Never attempt to make thick big one  😀

( Instead,  you can stuck together many pieces of cooked  Mochi to make it big —->Kagami-Mochi )

When the mix is ready, put a cover and put into Microwave cooker,  Med’ High —– 5 minutes.

( You may better watching inside of cooker —– if the rid of container

was blow up, Switch off. )

When it was cooked, then have a good use of your brain to take the

cake out of container.  Use of potato starch would save the stickiness.

Cut the cake in your taste.  And it is good to eat straight. —— wrap up

with Sea-Weed (Nori ) with a cake a bit wet with Soy-source.

Or put into a  Soy-source based soup ( with chicken what so ever)

like dumpling.  It called O-Zouni.

Which ever the cooking,  it’s better to give a bit of baked skin which

would enhance crispy flavor.  Japanese use charcoal fire to bake them,

though,  I found a use of gas-torch is pretty handy and effective too.  Ha ha ha  😀

( The truth is, my electric grill has been used for storage of food staff, and full-up —– sorry )

To make O-Mochi from the Glutinous rice powder is, not only it is much cheaper but unlike

plastic wrapped Japanese Kiri-Mochi, it is free from any artificial additives and white breach

——- since, dry powder needs no preservatives.

Once you found your formula,  mixing and cooking wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.

So, try O-Zouni.  And have a flavor and taste of Japanese New Year.

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