Ozoni is a special miso-based soup enjoyed in the morning on New Year’s Day in Japan. The soup usually includes mochi (rice cake), and the preparation varies by region and household.
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.
There are numerous regional variations in Japan but we usually divide into two types – Kanto (Tokyo area) style and Kansai (Kyoto area) style.
- The Kanto, Chugoku, and Kyushu regions: a clear miso soup which is flavored with bonito based dashi and soy sauce.
- The Kansai and Shikoku regions: white miso is added to the kombu base dashi soup.
- Some areas in Tottori prefecture: the azuki red bean soup with round mochi.
- The Kanto region: a rectangular-shaped mochi is grilled/toasted before being added to the soup.
- The Kansai region: a round-shaped 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 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 the Kanto region.
Ingredients in Ozoni
- 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.
- The Kansai style: ozoni, satoimo (taro root), daikon, and carrot are the common ingredients and often garnished with katsuobushi (bonito flakes) on top.
- Others: Some regions close to the 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 Ozoni. On the other hand, my dad grew up in Tokyo eating Kanto-style Ozoni 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, Kyoto style carrot (it’s red more than orange), 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 the common ingredients 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.
My children didn’t like ozoni when they were little, but now they love the Kansai-style and I’m so excited that we can enjoy this traditional food as a family.
Interested in Kanto-style Ozoni?
Use of Saikyo Miso
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 known as Miso Cod here in the US). You can find saikyo miso in a Japanese supermarket.
Ozoni (Japanese New Year Mochi Soup – Kansai Style)
- 1 piece kombu (dried kelp) (8 g; 3" x 3", 8 x 8 cm)
- 3 cups water
- 2 pieces taro (satoimo)
- 2 inch daikon radish
- 3 inch carrot
- 2 stalks komatsuna (you can substitute with spinach)
- 3-5 Tbsp Saikyo miso (Kyoto-style white miso) (sweeter than regular white miso)
- 7 oz soft/silken tofu (kinugoshi dofu)
- 4 pieces round mochi (rice cake)
- yuzu zest (optional)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Soak kombu in water overnight in a large pot.
- Peel taro (satoimo) 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 a floral shape. If you do so, separate the rounds and flower shaped pieces. You will be cooking round carrot slices with taro (satoimo) 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 3 Tbsp saikyo miso 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 so you won't break tofu.
- 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.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container or in the pot and store in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 28, 2014. It’s been republished in December 2021.