Todd and I spent our New Years in Japan stuffing ourselves with my Mom’s cooking. New Years in Japan is a very busy time, especially in the kitchen as we have to get ready for our New Years meal. This year my Mom welcomed the help and I rolled up my sleeves, put on the apron and got to cook with her after being away for New Years for 3 years.
Osechi-Ryouri is a traditional Japanese food that Japanese eat for New Year’s. It is said that the tradition started during the Heian Period (794-1185) but originally came from China. Osechi-Ryouri is comprised of different dishes, such as:
Nishime-cooked vegetables such as carrots, bamboo shoot, konjac, Japanese taro potatoes, and lotus root
Datemaki-process product made of white fish meat, shrimps, and eggs
Kurikinton-a sweet dish made of sweet potatoes and chest nut),
Kouhaku Namasu-marinated thinly sliced carrots and Daikon radish – carrot represents ‘Kou’ meaning red and radish represents ‘haku’ meaning white. The combination of red and white shows happiness), ‘Yakimono’ (roasted seafood such as Japanese amberjack, sea bream, and shrimps
Kouhaku Kamaboko-red and white fish broiled paste
Kuromame-cooked black soy beans with sweet taste), and more
Each dish has meaning which you can find out more here.
Typically, you spend 2-3 days to cook all these dishes at the end of December. You then eat Osechi for 3 days from Jan 1 to 3, as we are not supposed to cook for the first 3 days, although recently many families only follow this tradition for a day or two. Besides Osechi, ‘Zouni’ and ‘Toso’ are accompanied, which I will not get into details this time (see the link above for full descriptions).
Japanese Yakibuta (cooked pork loin- in Chinese they call it Char Siu)
My mother cooks Osechi-Ryori every year and put them in Jyuu-Bako (2-5 layered boxes to put food in for special occasion). The boxes are typically made of wood or lacquer-ware but recently plastic is also popular. Although it seems that Jyuu-bako can be traced back in Muromachi era (1338-1573), it is during Edo era (1610) that Jyuu-bako became popular.
In my family, one of the usual dishes that we include in Osechi-Ryouri besides the above mentioned dishes is ‘Japanese Yakibuta’, a cooked pork with a special sauce. As most dishes mentioned above make better sense together and some of them are very time consuming, or prepared products (such as Datemaki and Kamaboko), I have selected this popular dish ‘Japanese Yakibuta’ which is tasty by itself. The recipe is originally from my grandmother which my mother adjusted over years.
Pork loin: 500g
Sake: 1 Tablespoon
Oyster sauce: 1 Tablespoon
Regular Soy sauce: 110 cc (originally 65 cc of this 110 cc would be Chinese soy sauce. Feel free to use this is you know the difference
Leaks: one stick chopped
Ginger: some slices
Cinnamon stick: 1 stick
Japanese pepper (Sanshou): 7-10 grains
Star Anise (Hakkaku): 2-3 pieces
How to cook (cooking/preparation time: 30-40 min)
1. Wind the string around the pork loin to help it keep its shape and poke it with the stick all around
2. Put all the spices in the bowl and soak the pork in it for 3-4 hours. Turn the pork around from time to time.
3. Pour 1 Tablespoon of oil into a frying pan and sauté the pork with a big flame to brown the outside.
4. Move the pork and the spices and the sauce into a thick bottom pot, add water until the meat is covered to the top, and cook until it is boiled. Remove the forms on the top.
5. Turn down the flame to a mid range and cook for 30-40 min until the sauce gets thick.
Once the meat cools down, cut the pork into 5 mm thick slices and serve with some vegetables as well as with the sauce. In my family, we like to serve the meat with a potato salad.
How does it look? Let us know how it turns out or feel free to ask questions.