Many cultures have certain foods traditionally eaten at the new year, believed to bring luck to the next 365 days. In the American south, it’s Hoppin’ John made with black-eyed peas; Spaniards eat a dozen grapes for every strike of the clock at midnight; and other cultures consider pork, greens, or lentils lucky, the last because of the way the legumes swell when cooked, symbolizing prosperity.
Japan has a whole set of ritual foods for the new year, called osechi. These dishes are often arranged together in bento boxes and include herring roe, brightly colored boiled fish paste, various fruits and vegetables, and red sea bream.
One of the most important osechi dishes is o-zoni, hot broth floating with mochi cakes. From January 2nd through January 7th, EN Japanese Brasserie will be serving executive chef Abe Hiroki’s o-zoni, with cabbage, chicken, diakon, shitake, carrot, and homemade mochi in dashi broth for $12.
We asked chef Hiroki about the significance of the dish.
It turns out that there are many regional variations on o-zoni, but that the most significant component is the mochi. Chef Hiroki explained:
“Our version is a Tokyo style o-zoni, much like our food, but o-zoni can be made very differently across Japan, from the inclusion of miso, to whether or not to grill the mochi first.
In old Japan like today, rice was really important, and to give praise to god, one would give mochi (sticky rice) to the gods. And then after New Year’s, one would cook o-zoni and this would give you the power of the gods and help provide more rice, health, and luck for the next year. If you’re Japanese, you absolutely must have o-zoni for the new year. Everybody in Japan makes o-zoni for New Year’s, there are pretty much no exceptions.”
435 Hudson Street