NEW YEAR’S IS ONE OF THE BEST TIMES IN JAPAN – at least for eating. Shogatsu, the New Year’s holiday, is celebrated from midnight on December 31 until January 3 or 4, or even longer by diehards.
No New Year’s banquet would be complete without a bowl of zoni, soup with toasted mochi (pounded rice cakes). While most Japanese dishes differ from region to region, zoni varies virtually from house to house. This zoni, a variation of the Kyoto-style, uses sweet white miso paste, and is one of my favorites..
Although I live in the States, I continue to celebrate Japanese New Year’s to this day with my daughter, albeit in a less traditional and fancy way. We look forward to it every year. It is a welcome ritual to closing out the year. And yes, a lot, okay, way too much mochi is consumed!
- 10 ½ oz. small taro (satoimo), peeled, rubbed with salt, rinsed, and kept in a bowl of water to prevent discoloration until ready to cook
- 3 ½ oz. carrots, peeled and cut into thick rounds
- 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms (optional), stems cut, with a criss-cross incision made on the cap
- 4 ½ cups dashi (fish stock)*
- 2 tablespoons white miso (fermented soybean paste), or more if you like it very sweet
- 8 mochi cakes
- Fresh trefoil or parboiled spinach (optional)
- To garnish:
- A few slivers of yuzu (Japanese citron) peel
- A handful of dried bonito flakes
- Boil the taro, carrots, and mushrooms (if you decide to use them) in the dashi stock for roughly 10 minutes, until soft enough to be pierced with a toothpick.
- Take a few tablespoons of the hot stock out of the pot and combine with the miso in a small bowl. When thoroughly blended, incorporate back into the soup.
- Meanwhile toast the mochi until they begin to swell. Then add them to the soup, swirl around until warmed, and turn off the heat.
- To serve, pour the soup into four deep bowls, making sure there are two mochi in the middle of each bowl. At the last moment, add any greens, and top with a sliver or two of yuzu peel and a sprinkling of bonito flakes. Serve immediately.