Let’s Talk Food: 2021 can’t come soon enough

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Kombu maki.

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Osechi ryori.

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Sekihan, or red bean rice.

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Tazukuri, or dried anchovies.

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Mochi for the New Year’s thanks to Jimmy and Arlene Miyake.

We have all been through an interesting year and are so ready for the new year to arrive. We hope 2021 will be a luckier year than this year.

It has been a rough year with COVID-19. It started in March, with businesses, restaurants and bars shuttered. They first had to close, then, when restaurants and bars could open, they could only seat 60% of their total capacity. If possible, outdoor dining was implemented. However, as creative as the restaurant and bars tried to be, some will not reopen again.


The biggest shock for me was Alan Wong closing his doors and then checking out pages and pages of items being sold through Oahu Auctions. But fear not, those of you who know him know he will reappear again, somewhere, perhaps after this pandemic is over.

Let’s make sure the foods we make for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are all symbolic for good luck and fortune.

Pounding mochi this week is traditional in a Japanese family. However, with COVID, we are not able to gather to pound mochi. The cutting up of the mochi after if has been pounded signifies sharing of happiness with others. The mochi hardens quickly, so it is usually bagged and placed in the freezer for the ozoni soup on New Year’s breakfast. Larger ones are made for kagami mochi, a layered mochi display, as offerings to the gods.

We place kadomatsu decorations on the front door for good luck, with pine that represents longevity and bamboo for resiliency, which welcomes the gods of harvest.

On New Year’s Eve, soba, or buckwheat, noodles are served before midnight as the last meal of the year.

For breakfast on New Year’s Day, ozoni is a must. The mochi is sticky and will hold the family together. The ingredients in this soup vary by the many cities in Japan. Many are seasoned with chicken, but my mother always used clams to season her soup.

We make sekihan, or red bean rice, for special occasions such as New Year’s Day, birthdays and other celebrations. The red color of the rice is symbolic of happiness in Japan.

Make a osechi ryori with a variety of lucky food: black beans, or kuromame, for your health; herring roe, or kazunoko, for a prosperous family and many offspring; burdock root wrapped in kombu, or gobo kobumaki, which means joyful; lotus root, or renkon, has many holes, which allows us to look through to the year ahead; some Kauai shrimp, gently boiled or grilled, as the bent shrimp looks like an older person and represents longevity; fish cakes, or kamaboko, which are red and white and are auspicious colors; bamboo shoots, or takenoko, which represents endurance and flexibility; and baby dried anchovies, or tazukuri, which translates to “making rice fields” and represents a bountiful harvest.

Kuromame takes a very long time to cook. I remember my mother decided to make it one year and cooked the black beans for hours. After that, she always bought the prepared cans of them.

Kombu Maki

8 ounces nishime konbu

1 pound lean pork


1/3 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon dashi-no-moto powder

Rinse kombu, cut into 6-inch lengths. Cut pork into strips to 1/2-inch-by-1/2-inch-by-2 1/2-inches in size. Place a piece of pork on one end of the kombu strip, roll and tie with the kampyo. Put the kombu maki in a saucepan. Add water to cover and cook until tender. Add soy sauce, sugar and powder and cook for 30 minutes.


(Baby Dried Anchovies)

2 (3 1/2-ounce) medium iriko or anchovies, cleaned

1/2 cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons white sesame seeds

Spread fish in a large pan. Roast at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Combine soy sauce and sugar in a large saucepan and cook until slightly thickened. Add fish and cook, stirring frequently over low heat until fish is covered with sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.


(Lotus Root in Sweet Vinegar)

14 ounces lotus root, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Place sliced lotus root in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Add the rice vinegar to stop discoloration. Bring to a boil and cook until the slices become translucent.

Sweet vinegar sauce:

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons mirin

1/2 teaspoon dashi no moto powder

Mix together until sugar dissolves. Add to drained lotus root slices and marinate for at least 30 minutes.


(Simmered Bamboo Shoots)

1 piece takenoko, about 10 ounces, already cooked

1 piece dashi kombu (or dried kelp), postcard size

2 cups water, or enough to cover the takenoko

Gently simmer for about 10 minutes until the piece of kombu is soft and floppy Remove the kombu and cut into small pieces (stamp size).

Add equal parts sugar and mirin to takenoko and cook for 10 minutes more. Add equal part soy sauce, return the chopped kombu to the pan, simmer until the cooking liquid has been reduced to half.

We cannot forget black-eyed peas for Jim, as it is a Southern tradition for good luck!

With all these good luck foods, 2021 is going to be better than 2020 for sure!



Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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