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Japanese cuisine goes beyond cooking itself. There is maybe no other food in the world so deeply embedded in the culture of a people as Japanese food.
While Japan's rich and fascinating culture is still little known in the west, Japanese foods like sushi, tempura, and tofu are becoming more and more familiar to the westerners, while still difficult to define in their complexity.
Deriving its meaning from old traditions Japanese dining is full of ritual significance. Everything is important from the guests seating order, to the table manners; from the order of the servings, to the color of food.
Fresh and healthy, the cooking of Japan is natural and in harmony with the seasons. It reflects the love of Japanese people for ornamentation, decoration and celebration.
Preparing it is an art to be enjoyed with the eyes before being tasted. Magi gave me a demonstration of her ability in this art when she invited me and my family to join hers for the Osechi New Year’s dinner.
Enjoy Magi’s cooking with the Step-by-step Chirashi Sushi recipe that follows.
I was honored to be invited by my friend Magi for the New Years dinner. Magi prepared for us an unforgettable meal.
Japanese people consider New Year's one of the most pleasurable times of the year. Especially during the first three days of January, most families try to reunite and gather all their members together.
Dating back some 1,000 years, Osechi-ryori originally referred to banquets held to celebrate the transition from one season to the next. It is one of the most exciting and elaborated preparations of Japanese dining, full of variety, vivid colors and appealing flavors.
The menu varies from one region to the other, but traditionally the assortment includes many pickled, smoked, and marinated dishes, that can be prepared in advance, with little extra work to be done on the main days of celebration.
The word “Osechi” means seasonal festival. The food that was eaten to celebrate, wish for good harvest and keep the bad spirit away on these seasonal festivals was called “Osechi Cooking”. There are five seasonal festivals per lunar calendar, but nowadays “Osechi” specifically refers to the one prepared on New Year.
Authentic New Year dish “Osechi” does not only look beautiful and has an excellent nutritional balance, but also each dish is filled with good wishes of long life, happiness, promotion, success, etc.
Osechi was also followed by Chikuzen (seasoned vegetables), Sekihan (sticky rice), and Ozouni (traditional soup).
Sweetened chestnuts and mashed sweet potatoes
Symbolizes wealth and victory
Marinated daikon radish and carrot
Red and white are an auspicious color in Japan, symbolizes peace
TAZUKURI or GOMAME
Represents a rich harvest
Red and white are an auspicious color in Japan. Because the shape is similar to sunrise, it is often eaten to celebrate a new departure
CHIKUZEN-NI or NISHIME
Boiled and seasoned vegetables
Symbolizes fertility and good prospect of the future
New year's traditional soup
sticky rice with red beans
red is an auspicious color in Japan, prepared in the hope of prosperity and peace
Represents a rich harvest and safety, and also wish for strong foundation and perseverance
Rolled sweetened egg omelet
Represents great advance in education and culture
Salted herring roe
Symbolizes fertility and wishes you the joy of many children
Chicken roll with vegetable, modern version
Prepared in the hope of prosperity and peace
Japanese New Year’s dish