Friday, January 8, 2010

Auspicious food for New Year (Osechi-ryori)

Here is a plate of New Year food, osechi-ryori, of which most items have an auspicious connotation.

Starting at the bottom and going around clockwise:
  • kazunoko or herring roe - the name sounds the same as "many children"
  • [Koya tofu, freeze-dried tofu - these are not typical]
  • the black pouches next to that: konbumaki or kelp rolls, sounds like "yoroboku" or "to enjoy oneself"
  • renkon or lotus root - the lotus is a flower symbolizing the process of enlightenment in Buddhism, as it rises up from the mud of the pond towards the light. With its spokes and holes, a slice of lotus root, as on the picture, also resembles the Wheel of the Law, an important Buddhist symbol. And finally, through these holes, the Japanese say, "you can see the future" ("saki ga mieru").
  • kinton, puree of sweet chestnuts
  • tazukuri, small dried sardines; "tazukuri" means "preparing the rice fields" and this term sounds like "otsukuri", which in its turn is another word for sashimi, raw fish. In other words, "tazukuri" is "sashimi for farmers", who could not eat real sashimi in the past as they didn't live near the sea...
  • datemaki, rolled omelet
  • and in the middle: red (pink) and white slices of kamaboko fish paste. The combination red and white is of course also auspicious, think about the "red and white" song contest on New Year's Eve at NHK TV
  • There was no space left on the plate for the black beans, kuromame, which sound like "mame ni ikiru", to have a healthy life.