Friday, January 1, 2010
A SIMPLE NEW YEAR'S BRUNCH IN HONOLULU
The first meal of the year is always symbolically significant. Growing up in Hawaii, it was a special Japanese feast featuring ozoni (annual breakfast soup), kuromame (boiled black soybeans), kazunoko (salted herring egg on seaweed), sashimi (raw yellowfin or bluefin tuna), sushi and another dozen or so other dishes, mostly of vegetables, with chicken and pork.
My mother, and, later, Pearl, did all the preparations and I merely enjoyed the meal. Sometimes, a visit to a Buddhist temple for burning incense and small prayer ending with a bit of sake. Usually, this was a day when friends and relatives came by, where liberal amounts of alcohol were served.
I thought about this tradition, but decided to make certain adjustments. First, breakfast is too early, so for me, it was brunch. Mind you, this is similar to my first roast turkey, in that I am preparing everything. I thought of inviting people, but, decided to first experiment alone.
I looked at various ozoni recipes and simplified it to a can of hokkigai
clams (the red color is important this day, as you will see in the sashimi and assorted other items), can of button mushrooms, mochi (pounded rice), mustard cabbage (something called mizuna is mostly used, but you needed to buy a rather large quantity, and I don't like it anyway), green onions, a dash of shoyu and some sake.
The kazunoko could only be purchased for around $26 in a large chunk, and I merely wanted a postage stamp amount, so I used ikura (salted salmon eggs, again, red) instead. I splurged on a $28/pound otoro, a premium portion from the belly of blue-fin tuna.
I tried to find the smallest onaga (a kind of red snapper), and for a fortune bought one, which added to the sashimi and a small amount for frying, with the rest frozen for future use:
I also saw a container of something called chikuzenni (gobo or burdock, hasu or lotus root, carrots, bamboo sprouts, shiitake mushrooms and konnyaku or a potato gel), which I tossed into a pan with slices of rib eye in butter.
I had the #1 rice in the world from Niigata, but felt that the mochi in the soup was sufficient. Or, maybe, I was a bit lazy to actually cook it.
The obligatory liquids included Saporro (as Kenjiro was born in Otaru, lived in Sapporo and went on to Utashinai, before journeying to the USA) beer, Kiku-Masamune taruzake (because you can buy this in a small bottle, with a taste of cedar) and Yoichi 20 year old scotch, which, amazingly enough, was recently selected as the best scotch in the world. The ozoni was fabulous and this simple epicurean delight resulted in a three hour brunch gazing off at a tranquil Honolulu and sparkling Pacific Ocean.
HAPPY NEW YEAR