One of the many traditions of Oshogatsu is the steaming bowl of ozoni on New Years day.
Whether taken as a “cure” for the Eve’s excesses or enjoyed purely on its culinary and traditional
merits, a hearty soup nourishes both the body and soul.
My Personal Ozoni
I have to admit that in my youth (a little depressing that my “youth” is something that resides
in my distant past) ozoni, was used more as a New Year’s remedy than a meal. Perhaps it was the
much needed liquid in the broth to cure alcohol’s dehydration. Or the carbohydrates found in
the root vegetables that helped metabolize the dreaded ethanol still present in my bloodstream.
Or just the fact that I survived another wild night of merriment and simply was able to partake
in a simple albeit satisfying meal on the dawn of a New Year. What Obaachan and Mom started
has morphed into my own personal interpretation of the requisite first meal of the year.
I start the night before with a simple clear osumashi based on bonito flakes and dashi konbu. I
used to boil the two (sacre bleu!) until Iron Chef Michiba showed me the way – just bring the
water to a light boil, remove from heat and steep the two until the perfumy essence of the
ocean is detectable from about 6 feet from the stockpot. Strain this broth and refrigerate ‘till
the next day (or whenever you plan to use it). I also pre-chop the vegetables the day before
(since precise knife skills aren’t peaking on 3 hours of sleep on January 1st). I prefer to julienne
(3 inch long thin slices) carrots, gobo, daikon, shiitake, hasu, enoki mushrooms and mizuna.
When preparing the ozoni, I bring the pre-prepared broth to a simmer, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of
shoyu, 1 can of scallops (hotate) along with the scallop liquid then gradually add the pre-sliced
vegetables and simmer until tender. I then add mochi to the soup and continue to simmer until
the mochi is tender. I know that most of you already have family recipes for ozoni, and I
heartily endorse you to continue using those “family secret” recipes. Whether they consist of
broth derived from chicken, pork or beef bones or a combination of all three. Or whether your
toppings include kamaboko, shrimp, chicken, tofu or any other traditional goodies – the main
point is to continue these traditions as food nourishes not just the body but more importantly
– the soul.
Soup as a Meal
As the oshogatsu celebration passes, I also endorse continuing soup as the focal point of the
family meal throughout the year. As delectable ingredients simmer in broth, they not only
infuse liquid with flavor but also nutrients. The B and C vitamins are water soluble so they leach
into surrounding liquid. The fat soluble components such as cholesterol and saturated fat float
to the surface and are easily skimmed during preparation so they can easily be removed. The
liquid medium of soup also stretches the stomach during digestion signaling the brain to stop
eating, thereby providing a self satiating mechanism. And soup can be so much more than just
Campbell’s Chicken Noodle.
A hearty bowl of lentil soup during the chilly fall and winter months does more than warm the
body. Along with a hearty green salad and crostini or Italian toast points slathered with
hummus, white bean or eggplant spread, it provides the body with complex carbohydrates,
protein and healthier fats though you wouldn’t believe it’s a meal that you could indulge in,
Since lentils don’t need any pre-soaking like their legume cousins and cook in 20 minutes, you
could have a soup from prep to table in under 1 hour. Depending on how pressed for time I am, I
either cook the lentils in water, vegetable broth (homemade or bouillon cubes) or in broth
derived from simmered smoked ham hocks. What’s added is up to your taste and imagination.
Chopped celery, carrots, onion, garlic, parsley, potato, mushrooms, beans or lean cubed turkey,
ham or sausage if you also crave animal protein. Spice it up with thyme, rosemary, marjoram,
oregano, bay leaves, bouquet garni or any mixture of fresh or dried herbs. When I’m really
pressed for time, I’ve been known to even use Lipton’s Onion Soup as a flavoring base. Be
creative because lentils are very forgiving legumes that accept almost any culinary companions.
What’s Up Doc?
How about a thick, rich bowl of curry scented carrot soup? Not only will it provide you with
several months worth of naturally derived beta carotene and a hefty dose of fiber but it often
can serve as an entrée instead of simply a starter soup course. Simply boil about 3 pounds of
peeled roughly chopped carrots in chicken or vegetable stock until very tender. Process in a food
processor until the mixture is pureed (adding boiling stock as needed for the desired
consistency). The next step is where your imagination kicks in. For a Mediterranean style soup,
add cumin, ginger, maybe a little pear puree for added sweetness and flavor and serve with
minced cilantro and a low fat yogurt swirl with decorative slices of cucumber. Or for a French
touch, a little crumbled goat cheese along with a drizzle of truffle or garlic flavored olive oil. Or
perhaps simmering the carrots in a bonito and konbu based broth then adding mirin and
garnishing with crispy fried hasu, negi and toasted sesame seeds for a Nihonjin take on carrot
The Gochiso’s Favorite Portuguese Bean Soup
Never mind the infamous Navy Bean Soup served on Capitol Hill to esteemed (and not so
esteemed) members of Congress. The Gochiso Gourmet is exposing his favorite take on the
Hawaii favorite – Portuguese Bean Soup. Served in restaurants, hotels, the annual Punahou
Carnival as well as millions of households throughout Hawaii (okay, maybe thousands), this
bean soup takes its place in Hawaii culinary tradition along with Leonard’s Malasadas, Spam
musubi and the Zippy’s Chili.
It’s a hearty bean soup; chock full of vegetables spiced with that Portuguese specialty – linguica
or Portuguese sausage. There are probably as many variations to the soup as there are chili or
beef stew recipes. However, since most sausages tend to carry a fair burden of saturated fat and
cholesterol, I decided to create my own Gochiso version.
Gochiso Gourmet’s Portuguese Bean Soup
3 to 4 smoked ham hocks
5 bay leaves
8 to 10 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large roughly chopped onion
4 large peeled, roughly chopped carrots
5 stalks roughly chopped celery
2 peeled roughly chopped potatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
Two 14 ounce cans peeled, chopped tomatoes
One 8 ounce can tomato sauce
2 cans drained kidney beans
½ small head cabbage, roughly chopped
2 packages Noh Hawaiian Style Portuguese Sausage Seasoning Mix
2/3 cup elbow macaroni
½ cup chopped parsley
In a large stock pot simmer ham hocks with bay leaves with water for 1 & ½ to 2 hours
skimming “foam” from the surface. Strain and refrigerate overnight. The next day, any solidified
fat can be removed from the surface of the stock. In another large stockpot/Dutch oven, sauté
onions, carrots, celery, potatoes and garlic in oil until tender. Add ham hock stock and bring to
simmer then add chopped canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, cabbage and Noh’s
Seasoning Mix and bring back to simmer. Add macaroni and simmer according to package
instructions (10 to 15 minutes). Add parsley for garnish.
If you desire additional animal protein, can add lean cubed ham with vegetables or for added
vegetable protein, add soy based “nuggets” when adding the ham hock stock.
The Noh’s Hawaiian Style Portuguese Sausage Seasoning Mix can be ordered through their
website: http://www.nohfoods.com as well as their other seasoning products. They also have a
distribution center in Gardena California.
First Course for the 1st of the Year... and Beyond