Osechi-ryōri: Japanese specialties for the New Year

Oshōgatsu (お正月), the Japanese New Year, is one of the most important festivals in Japan. Ōmisoka, the Japanese New Year’s Eve, is celebrated differently than in Europe. It is not the highlight, but the start of the actual New Year’s celebrations and is celebrated in a much less spectacular way. Because the new year in Japan doesn’t begin with a big fireworks display, but with the sound of Buddhist temple bells. 108 times the great bell of every temple across the land is struck. With each sound, one of the 108 worldly desires of the people should leave the earth so that they can start the new year free from sin and suffering. Many Japanese use this occasion to complete Hatsumōde (初詣), the first temple visit of the year, and to pray for happiness and health in the coming twelve months.

Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu or あけましておめでとうございます- that’s the New Year’s greeting in Japanese. However, the actual Japanese New Year is more similar to Christmas in Europe. It’s the most important family celebration of the year, children get presents and, above all, people eat and drink a lot and extensively. A fixed New Year’s custom and one of the most important culinary rituals is Osechi Ryōri – the Japanese New Year’s meal. Similar to a Bentō, it consists of various specialties and delicacies that are finely arranged in a beautiful box ( Jyu-bako) are served. The Osechi Ryōri is prepared before the turn of the year. So that nobody has to cook on the first days of the New Year in Japan.

It’s not just the custom itself that’s intensely celebrated in Japan. The individual dishes and dishes for the New Year’s boxes also have a special meaning. Because positive properties are attributed to every single delicacy of an Osechi. As a symbol of the hope that luck and fortune will move bit by bit and layer by layer into life and the new year. For example, the “sea bream fried with salt” (Tai no Shioyaki) is considered to be a particularly auspicious food and herring roe (Kazu no ko) is a guarantee for healthy offspring in the new year. The seaweed stands for joy, the black soybean for health. Also popular is ozōni, a soup made with mochi rice cake. Enjoying mochi rice cakes for the New Year also has meaning. It stands for longevity, endurance and health.

The Osechi Ryōri tradition is now more than 1,000 years old. Datemaki (sweet, rolled omelette), Kuri Kinton (candied chestnuts with sweet potatoes), Kuromame (sweet black soybeans) or Su Renkon (pickled lotus root) are among the classic Osechi specialties. In addition to the typical small, cold delicacies, which are not only served in an appetizing but also very decorative way, modern variations of the Osechi-ryōri ritual are becoming more and more common. These include roast beef and salad or fried Chinese recipes. The variety is great. Bilgifrekans shows you which specialties you can use to celebrate your very own Osechi-ryōri festival. This works particularly well with a mix of our various japas – all of which are of course deliciously seasoned with our Kikkoman soy sauces. A must-have for Japanese specialties!

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