Wednesday | July 26, 2017
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Celebrating a new year

It is hard to imagine that we will be celebrating a new year tomorrow! What happened to the year?

Foods are very important to bring in the new year and each family has their own traditions.

Many Japanese families eat soba today on New Year’s Eve because soba resembles wheat for a bountiful harvest, important to a farmer.

On New Year’s Day, the start of the day a bowl of “ozoni,” or mochi soup, will be eaten. The stickiness of mochi holds a family together.

The edible centerpiece, “osechi ryori,” has various foods, usually in a beautiful lacquered bowl, with each food having a special meaning. Lotus root or “renkon” has holes to allow us to look through to the year ahead. Burdock is a long root which symbolizes a long and stable life.

“Kuromame,” or black soybeans simmered in sugar and soy sauce, is eaten for good health. “Mame” or bean sounds like another word that means hard work and good health. Japanese families have been eating these legumes for generations and now Dr. Oz. is claiming it to be a super food that can help you lose weight, lower cholesterol and fight inflammation!

“Kagami mochi” is displayed with two mochi, usually larger than the ones we eat, stacked one on top of the other, and a tangerine on top.

A southern family will have a pot of black-eyed peas tomorrow and call it Hoppin John, and on New Year’s Day, will call it Skippin Jenny to show frugality and hope for prosperity. Cornbread is a side dish with the black-eyed peas because it has the golden color of gold. Corn kernels may also be added to resemble gold nuggets. Greens like kale or collards are eaten as the green color resembles green money and the new year would be a year of bounty.

A Chinese family will eat long noodles to symbolize long life and have whole fish as the word for fish sounds like abundance. Chinese New Year 2014 is Jan. 31.

A Korean Family will eat “ttok kuk,” or rice cake soup. According to Joan Namkoong in “A Korean Kitchen, Traditional Recipes with an Island Twist” cookbook, “ttok kuk is like Japanese ozoni, rice cakes in soup. Korean rice cakes are firmer than Japanese mochi; ‘hind ttok’ is used in soup and is a smooth, firm one-inch log of rice. It is sliced on the diagonal into three-eighths inch pieces and boiled in water or broth for a few minutes to soften it. It’s not the kind of rice cake you snack on; it must be cooked and eaten hot in a soup or sauce.”

A German or Scandinavian family will eat pickled herring at the stroke of midnight to ensure a year of bounty.

A Spanish family will eat 12 grapes, representing each month of the new year.

A Turkish family will eat a pomegranate for good luck, the red representing the heart, which also means life, fertility and good health.

In New Orleans, a king cake will be on the dessert menu. In Scandinavia, a ring cake will be served for dessert. The round shape means “coming full circle.”

Roast pork served on New Year’s Day symbolizes progress as the pig never moves backward.

Here is Joan Namkoong’s recipe for Korean New Year’s Rice Cake Soup:

Ttok Kuk

Rice Cake Soup

Serves 4

1/2 pound beef, round or sirloin

2 tablespoons Korean sauce*

2 teaspoons oil

6 pieces hind ttok ( Koreans mochi)

8 cups beef or chicken broth

4 green onions, chopped

Egg garnish, using 2 eggs — cook like thin pancakes, cut into fine shreds

2 sheets seed crumpled

Sil kochu (shredded fine chili pepper threads) for garnish

Slice beef into 1/4-inch pieces then cut into fine strips. Place in a bowl and add the basic Korean sauce. Marinate for 30 minutes.

In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the beef and cook until well done. Transfer and set aside. Slice the hind ttok into 3/8-inch thick pieces on the diagonal.

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan.

Bring the broth to a boil in another saucepan, taste broth and adjust seasonings if needed. Reduce heat, cover and keep hot.

When you are ready to serve, drop the sliced hind ttok into boiling water. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until ttok is soft. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and divide among 4 serving bowls. Sprinkle green onions and egg over the top. Add the hot broth. Top with beef and seaweed. Garnish with sil kochu. Serve at once.

Basic Korean Sauce

Makes 1 cup

2/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup water

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions

Measure all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more sugar if desired.

Many foods are traditional and I hope you all carry on some of them that were important to your ancestors to the next generation. Happy New Year!

Please feel free to e-mail me at if you have a question. Bon appetit until next week.


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