With New Year’s just around the corner, you might be poring through family recipes looking for a bit of comfort food. Perhaps you’re on the hunt for a new twist on a typical ingredient or a completely different menu altogether. Given everyone’s get-togethers look rather different this year, consisting of a smaller audience than in the past, this is the perfect time to try something new. You can gather inspiration, or maybe just get peckish, by looking at delicious holiday foods and discovering a cookbook or two at the same time.
New Year’s in Japan
In Japan, the New Year celebration starts at the end of December by cleaning and decorating the home. Traditional foods are prepared, such as toshikoshi soba (long buckwheat noodles believed to bring long life in the new year), mochi (glutinous rice cakes in a special soup called ozoni), and osechi (an assortment of foods prepared in a black bento box). Osechi can contain a wide variety of items, usually differing by region and family. Some of the commonly found items are black beans (to represent hard work), datemaki (sweet rolled egg and fish cake for scholarship), shrimp (for longevity), and gobu (burdock root to symbolize strength and stability).
While these cookbooks might not contain traditional New Year’s dishes, they’re a great and delicious introduction to Japanese food.
Rika’s Modern Japanese Home Cooking – Simplifying Authentic Recipes by Rika Yukimasa
Everyday Harumi – Simple Japanese Food for Family & Friends by Harumi Kurihara
Food Artisans of Japan – Recipes and Stories by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
Japanese Home Cooking – Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors by Sonoko Sakai
Lunar New Year
This year, Lunar New Year will take place on Friday, February 12, 2021, and we’ll be ringing in the year of the Ox. In China, it is also a time for family celebration that involves cleaning the house (symbolizing sweeping away the old and welcoming the new year), putting up decorations, and giving out hongbao (red envelopes) to children. Just like Japan, there are a wide range of symbolic foods that are eaten for luck such as dumplings (to send away the old and welcome the new year), long noodles (for long life), whole fish (for abundance), and chicken dishes (for family and prosperity). There are also the delicious desserts, such as sesame-seed balls filled with red bean paste or glutinous rice balls in soup (for auspicious family reunions). Snacks are also big, such as sunflower and melon seeds, malt candy, peanut candy, ginger candy, and a variety of dried fruits ( including tangerines that symbolize luck).
If your mouth is already watering, you can look up how to make these traditional dishes or explore further into Chinese cuisine with the below cookbooks.
Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food by Hsiao-Ching Chou
Chinese Food Made Easy by Ross Dobson
This is a Book About Dumplings by Brendan Pang
The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook by Danny Bowien
Hong Kong Food City by Tony Tan
Are you going to be adventurous and try a new recipe? Let us know how it went!