Japanese New Year, or oshogatsu, is one of the biggest holidays in Japanese culture and is celebrated on the first day of the new year, January 1. Oshogatsu is celebrated with visits to local shrines to wish for good fortune and health in the upcoming year. And of course, it's a prime occasion to gather with family to eat many delicious, traditional foods known as osechi ryori.
Traditional osechi ryori dishes are served in beautifully ornate jubako or multi-tiered lacquered serving boxes, similar to a bento, yet much fancier. Along with these dishes, a traditional soup is served, known as ozoni.
The following is a list of some of the best dishes to serve at your Japanese New Year’s celebration on January 1st. Some of the dishes represent good tidings for the year to come, while other dishes are not necessarily traditional osechi ryori, but Japanese favorites that are often served during the holiday.
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Kuri kinton is a comfort dish of candied chestnuts and gold sweet potatoes which are mashed together with the syrup of the candied chestnuts to make a sweet, creamy unforgettable treat. It is unique to Japanese New Year and typically served only once per year. The golden yellow color of this dish symbolizes a wish for prosperity in the new year.
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Konbumaki, also referred to as kobumaki, consists of large pieces of simmered kelp or “konbu” that are ornately tied in a bow. It can also be tied using a piece of dried daikon radish known as hoshi daikon. In other variations of konbu maki, the kelp is wrapped around cooked fish such as salmon or white fish, or with meat filling such as chicken or pork. The significance of the bow-shaped kelp is that in Japanese, kelp, or konbu, means “joy” and signifies the joy of new year’s day.
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Kinpira gobo is julienned carrots and burdock root (gobo) that is sauteed in a seasoning of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. It is a classic Japanese side dish or okazu that is often served in Japanese cuisine, but it is also served as part of osechi ryori. The vegetables are typically sautéed in oil, but for a lighter version, this recipe calls for braising in dashi broth, without oil.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
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Ozoni is a traditional soup with a piece of rice cake (mochi) that is enjoyed for the new year. There are many variations of ozoni, depending on the region of Japan where the soup is made. Some soups have a clear dashi broth while others are made of miso (fermented soybean) or chicken broth. Try this vegan ozoni recipe to ring in the new year.
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Zenzai, is a hot dessert soup made of sweet red beans and often served with toasted rice cakes (mochi) or smaller shiratama dango (mini rice cakes). This dish is not necessarily considered part of osechi ryori, but it’s a great dessert for the cold winter month. Plus, it makes for a nice treat for a special occasion.