Osechi-ryori: Traditional Japanese New Year Meal

Osechi-ryori: traditional Japanese New Year meal

Osechi-ryori: traditional Japanese New Year meal

Osechi (お節料理) is a traditional meal for the Japanese New Year (oshogatsu, お正月) that dates back to the Heian Period, more than 1000 years ago. There are various versions of osechi; from traditional to modern and even exotic (Italian, French, Chinese, etc), but all based on the meal being hozonshoku, literally ‘preserved food’.

The New Year’s celebration in Japan was the one time of the year that mothers and housewives could get a few days off of work. All the cooking was finished before the new year and no cooking was done for the three days (with the exception of ozoni, a kind of soup).

Osechi-ryori is a bit unlike other dishes in Japanese cuisine as it doesn’t seem to have changed much over the centuries. All the dishes are cooked with sake, mirin, shoyu and sugar and while tasty, seem decidedly austere to us.

All the different preserved items are served in a box.

We had osechi-ryori at Paku’s house this year. Paku’s mother made the traditional osechi dishes and her father made a snapper baked in salt. Snapper, or tai, as it is called in Japanese is traditional at New Year’s, however this version, baked in salt, though it may look Japanese is actually based on the Western dish of a whole fish baked in salt.

Osechi-ryori, Box 1
Osechi-ryori: traditional Japanese New Year meal
Mainly simmered and boiled foods; matsutake mushrooms (upper right), simmered whole octopus (lower right) simmered cod eggs and cod meat (upper left)

Osechi-ryori, Box 2
Osechi-ryori: traditional Japanese New Year meal
Baby sardines, egg roll, (grilled) salmon (top, left to right). Carrots, bamboo shoots, konyaku, ankimo (the liver of the angler fish, a kind of monkfish, said to be the foie gras of Japan) (bottom, left to right). In the middle are two pieces of smoked salmon wrapped in senmai-zuke (white turnip tsukemono), a popular and modern addition to osechi-ryori.

Osechi-ryori, ‘Box’ 3
Osechi-ryori: traditional Japanese New Year meal
Buri teriyaki, black beans, kinkan (kumquat) simmered in sugar and shochu, awabi (abalone) (clock-wise, from the top left)

Whole Snapper (tai, 鯛) Baked in Salt
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Whole Snapper (tai, 鯛) Baked in Salt – garnished with Sudachi
Osechi-ryori: traditional Japanese New Year meal
This is the meat from around the head area, said to be the sweetest. Notice that the sudachi is now ripened to nearly orange. The juice of the ripe sudachi is surpisingly sweet and deep yellow-orange in color.

Yuzu Mushi (steamed yuzu)
Osechi-ryori: traditional Japanese New Year meal
The fruit of the yuzu is scooped out and it is filled with dashi (soup stock) and buri, ginnan (nut), etc are steamed inside the yuzu shell. Exceptional! (This is not a traditional New Year’s dish.)

Wagashi (和菓子)
Osechi-ryori: traditional Japanese New Year meal
A beautiful Kyoto wagashi. Notice the dab of gold leaf on the top.

12 Responses to “Osechi-ryori: Traditional Japanese New Year Meal”

  1. Kat says:

    your o-sechi looks wonderful! Happy New Year!

  2. Momo says:

    wow… beautiful!!
    osechi looks so yummy!
    salted snapper looks so pretty and
    did u make the wagashi from scratch?
    because that truly is a work of art! :)
    happy new years! (even if its a bit late )

  3. PekoPeko says:

    Hi Kat,
    Yes it was tasty. I was a nice, simple home cooked style o-sechi.

    Hello Momo,
    And a happy new to you too!! (even a bit later)
    Yummy indeed. The salt baked snapper, with sudachi was not only pretty, but dang tasty!
    The wagashi, Paku purchased at one of the department stores in Kyoto.

  4. maria~ says:

    Wow! That’s some beautiful meal! I’m particularly intrigued by the wagashi. Is it flavored with traditional red bean or something else? Happy NY!

  5. PekoPeko says:

    Hello maria~
    Yes, the wagashi is particularly beautiful and exotic, tasty too! That is shiroan (shiro = white, an = azuki paste). It is then colored/flavored with something which I do not recall what it was. This accounts for the red color.
    The wrapping is gyuhi, I believe. Sorry, I didn’t really pay attention, I just gobbled it up.

  6. etsuko says:

    Hi Peko Peko, What a nice way to start the year with wonderful meal! I look forward to reading about sake and food from Kyoto.

  7. PekoPeko says:

    Hello etsuko,
    Thank you for coming to visit! Yes, fine food and drink with family and friends is the best way to start the new year.
    I love your blog!
    Peko

  8. PekoPeko says:

    Hello rfive,

    Wow, those are astoundingly beautiful! I would say that you had one of the finest New Year’s meals in Japan this year!

    Lucky you!

  9. PekoPeko says:

    Just for comparison’s sake, I am going to embed rfives images. I am humbled!

  10. jonsam says:

    it very yummmy….hmm.ilike it…having a dinner time in the end of year 2009.Merry Xmas and Happy New year 2010

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