The Japanese celebrate the New Year by feasting on Osechi Ryori (お節料理), traditional Japanese New Year food packed in lacquered boxes along with this special mochi soup called Ozoni (お雑煮).
What is Ozoni?
Ozoni is a special soup that we eat in the morning on New Year’s Day in Japan. It usually includes mochi (rice cake) and the preparation varies both by household and region.
Types of Ozoni – Kanto Style vs. Kansai Style
There are numerous regional variations in Japan but we usually divide into two types – Kanto (Tokyo area) style and Kansai (Kyoto/Osaka area) style.
In the Kanto region, Chugoku region, and Kyushu region, ozoni consists of a clear miso soup which is flavored with bonito based dashi and soy sauce.
In the Kansai region and Shikoku region, white miso is added to the kombu base dashi soup.
In some area in Tottori prefecture, their version consist of azuki red bean soup with round mochi.
In the Kanto region, the square mochi is grilled/toasted before being added to the soup.
In the Kansai region, a round mochi is cooked in boiling water before being added to the soup.
Over 400 years ago, round mochi was commonly used throughout Japan. However, as more people started to live in the Tokyo area, it was too much of work making the mochi into the round shape by hands. Therefore big mochi cake was cut into small squares and they became the common shape in Kanto region.
Other ingredients in Ozoni
For the Kanto style, chicken, fish cakes, dried shiitake, carrot, and some leafy vegetables like komatsuna, spinach, or mitsuba are often included in the soup, and garnished with yuzu peel.
For the Kansai style ozoni, satoimo (taro root), daikon, and carrot are the common ingredients and often garnished with katsuobushi (bonito flakes) on top.
Some regions close to ocean include fish and seafood, while mountain regions use vegetables and mushrooms. The additions to the soup vary based on the regional and seasonal ingredients.
My Family’s Ozoni
As I mentioned earlier, this new year soup not only varies by the regions but also by each household.
My mother lived in Osaka before she moved to Tokyo for college. Her mother’s family was originally from Kyoto and her dad’s family was from Nara. Therefore, my mom’s family grew up eating Kansai-style. On the other hand, my dad grew up in Tokyo eating Kanto-style till he met my mom.
So, my mom’s ozoni is a mix of both, with the Kansai-style base. It includes 5 ingredients: satoimo (taro root), daikon, carrot, toasted round mochi, and tofu. She uses Saikyo Miso (white miso from Kyoto).
For my version, I add leafy green vegetables (komatsuna or spinach) and yuzu peel, both of which are common ingredient for Kanto-style ozoni. The green color to the soup makes it prettier and I also like to add the fragrance of yuzu peel if I was lucky enough to get fresh yuzu.
Today I’ll share how I prepare this new year soup. My children didn’t like ozoni when they were little, but now they love kansai-style and I’m so excited that we can enjoy this traditional food as a family.
If you are new to Saikyo Miso (西京味噌), it’s different from regular white miso and it’s naturally sweet. The sweet flavor is similar to amazake (甘酒). This sweetness comes from the sugar produced through the fermentation process. Saikyo miso is made in Kyoto and it’s usually more expensive than regular miso. You might have tasted this special miso if you had fish called Gindara Saikyo Yaki (or the famous Miso Cod). You can find Saikyo Miso in a Japanese supermarket.
Don’t want to miss a recipe? Sign up for the FREE Just One Cookbook newsletter delivered to your inbox! And stay in touch on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram for all the latest updates. Thank you so much for reading, and till next time!
- Soak kombu in water overnight in a large pot.
- Peel satoimo (taro) and slice into rounds. Soak in water to remove the slimy texture.
- Peel daikon and slice into rounds. If it’s a large daikon, cut into quarters lengthwise.
- Peel carrot and slice into rounds. If you like to decorate the soup with a carrot flower, cut out some of the round slices into floral shape. If you do so, separate the rounds and flower shapes pieces. You will be cooking round carrot slices with satoimo (taro) and daikon, but these flower slices will be cooked separately.
- Add satoimo (taro), daikon, and carrots into the pot filled with kombu water. Start cooking over medium high heat. Right before full boiling, remove the kombu and discard.
- Skim off foam (from satoimo/taro) from the surface of the soup with a fine mesh strainer. Lower the heat to medium low and cover with a lid, leaving a gap. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add water if too much liquid has evaporated.
- Meanwhile, cut komatsuna (or spinach) in half. Start boiling water in a saucepan. If you prepare carrot flower slices, add them into the water. When water is boiling, add komatsuna and cook till tender.
- Take out komatsuna and carrot when they are tender and cut komatsuna into smaller pieces. Set these toppings aside for now.
- Once the vegetables in the soup are tender, add miso. Add 3 Tbsp. first, then add 1 Tbsp. at a time till you’re satisfied with the flavor. My family likes thick soup so I tend to add more. Add tofu after you mix in miso.
- Peel the skin of yuzu and flip over to remove any white part. Julienne the yuzu skin.
- Use a toaster oven to toast the mochi until puffy. You can also toast mochi over open flame or under a broiler.
- Add the soup into a serving bowl first, then place add mochi on top along with the colorful toppings.
Disclosure: Teak cutting board and Miyabi knife shown in this post/video were provided courtesy of CuttingBoard.com. I really love them both. The teak cutting board requires less maintenance compared to other woods and feels gentle on the knife when I chop. I highly recommend these additions to your kitchen if you are looking for a nice cutting board for everyday use!