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Saturday, January 3, 2015

OZONI: MY BEST BREAKFAST OF THE YEAR

Two days late on posting my New Year's Day breakfast, but ozoni is the traditional first meal of the year for most Japanese.  In Japan, everyone has her own recipe, and mine is surely one of a kind, mostly because I adjust it every year.  "O" is just an honorific, while the two Japanese characters--zo and ni--stand for mixed and simmered.  

It is said that the tradition goes back to 1336 having something to do with soup served during samurai field battles.  The Tokyo area uses a clear broth featuring dried tuna and seaweed, while the western regions lean towards white miso.  They all add mochi (rice pounded into a pasty shape) and a variety of vegetables depending on what is available during this winter period.  Sumo wrestlers enhanced this concept with high caloric ingredients to gain weight in their standard meal called Chankonabe.

I tend to internationalize and fuse Japanese with American in my cuisine.  My Thanksgiving turkey has an entirely different kind of stuffing.  A better example is my hanami (picnic under cherry blossoms in the Spring), when I generally have a combination similar to beer, sake, musubi and Kentucky Fried Chicken.  

Thus, for my ozoni this year I poured a can of hokigai  (red clam--one small can costs $12), including the liquid portion, into a pot of Campbell's chicken and rice soup, with some dried scallops (the best from Japan is around $100/pound) and shiitake mushrooms.  I simmered on the eve, the most dangerous part of the effort because it is easy to forget about this pot on a hot stove.

Then the next morning I added chinese and mustard cabbages and some green onions, with two pieces of mochi, and a sunny fried egg.  In addition to some hot sake and Kirin beer, I had a chilled Dream Moon junmai daiginjo sake ($37, 16% alcohol) from Ehime Prefecture, in honor of the Ehime Maru, which was accidentally sunk by the USS Greeneville near Pearl Harbor  14 years ago.  I also enjoyed a dish of chu-toro ($35/pound from Marukai).  I could have had nishime, which I forgot was in the refrigerator, so I'll have that with the remainder of the fatty bluefin tuna tonight.


If you are fastidiously discriminating, you might have noticed that can of hokigai right of the sashimi.  That was just pictorial ornamentation and not used to drink my beer.  Next year I'll work in truffles and foie gras to further internationalize this first meal of the year.  Perhaps, too, a fine Bordeaux, or, at least a Beaujolais Nouveau.

So I had the following lanai dinner:


And had a decent sunset:


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