A Washoku Warriors New Year’s Feast

by foodhoe on January 3, 2010

I took this picture on the drive home last Thursday, which was New Year’s Eve.  I know I’m not supposed to be rummaging through my purse and fumbling around with a camera while driving, but it was so stunning that I couldn’t resist!  Nature put on such a dramatic visual display, it kind of shamed the puny fireworks that fizzled and popped to mark the transition from 2009 to 2010 which we watched from our deck later that night…

My family celebrates the new year with a feast that is inspired by our Japanese roots, although the fine art of cooking the traditional dishes has been lost through the generations.  In 2008, I posted about a very traditional New Years feast that my aunt Tomiko prepared where we enjoyed an epic spread that inspires me to this day.  The Washoku Warriors challenge for the month was to prepare a few New Year’s dishes, and I found that old habits die hard.  It was as if I had reverted to childhood and studied for the wrong test!  Well, I did two of the correct recipes and this one Sweet and Sour Lotus Root, which I later realized wasn’t on the list, but was a nice addition to the table…  I’ve always loved the delicate lacy appearance of lotus root and in this recipe they are just barely blanched so that they maintain their crisp texture and are very festive to look at.  Read about the Washoku Warriors challenge here.

We all found the Fiery Parsnips (Kimpira), to be as delicious as the traditional burdock root, but Andoh sensei includes this as an alternative vegetable when burdock root can’t be found.  A fiery blend of seven spices (shichimi togarashi) is added to the dish, which is named after a folk hero Kimpira who displayed a fiery determination.

The final Washoku Warriors dish was the brightly colored New Year’s Salad (Kohaku Namasu) which is a delightful palate cleanser and a staple for the holiday spread.  It’s made of julienned strips of daikon radish and carrots, topped with grated lemon zest, fine shreds of dried apricot and then tossed with a marinade of sweet and sour sauce made from rice vinegar, sugar, salt and kombu.  I have to admit that I didn’t plan very well for the time consuming preparation of these dishes which all required a lot of tenacious and repetitive chopping.  This reminds me of why it is that I usually go out for Japanese food…  This was the last of the traditional dishes that I made from the Washoku Warriors challenge, but I learned some new dishes and it added some traditional elements to round out the meal.

When I was at the Japanese market, I picked up a few other Japanese treats that I know my Mother loves and hasn’t had in many years.  Did you know that Okame brand makes a non-stinky version of Natto?  This is a much reviled/loved dish that is visually repugnant to those who do not appreciate the stringy strands of slime that form a delicate spiderweb between the chopsticks and your mouth.  To the uninitiated, the texture and the malodorous ammonia odor can be a quite a turnoff in the same way that oozy stinky blue cheese or stilton can incite the gag reflex.

My grandmother used to always make Futomaki, which is another time consuming dish but one that was always at the New Year’s table, so I couldn’t resist picking one up at the market.  It was good but not as good as grandma used to make!

I’ll digress here slightly to introduce the guests of honor…  This is not exactly traditional new year’s fare, but around here it’s crab season and Mr. K drove out to Half Moon Bay where he scored a lively crew of FOBs.  He made a slight detour on the way back and stopped off at Hog Island Oyster Bar in the city, so we had a lovely seafood feast of oysters on the halfshell, aand fresh cracked crab for our New Year’s eve.

Anyways, so we gave these bad boys a good cleansing steambath and enjoyed the fresh and succulent meat in our feast, both as is and rolled up in our make your own sushi buffet…  Everyone loves fresh cracked crab as an appetizer.

While you won’t be able to find a Japanese restaurant that is open on New Year’s day, the Japanese markets are bustling with shoppers getting fresh ingredients for their holiday spreads.  I drove over to Nijiya Market early to pick up a couple of sashimi platters.  It wasn’t crazy busy, but there was competitive crowd waiting at the empty cases and each new stack of sashimi and sushi platters were quickly snatched up as they were put on the shelves.  It’s worth getting up early to pick it up that day, the fish is sparkling fresh and the texture of the flesh is firm and supple.

The other part of the meal was a make your own handroll buffet which I have posted about before.  I cut the sashimi into smaller pieces so they would fit better into small handrolls.  Making your own handroll is so easy.  Pick up a hand sized sheet of dried roasted seaweed, spread some sushi seasoned rice over it, then go to town by piling on your favorite fish and vegetables.  Dunk into bowls of wasabi mixed with soy sauce and enjoy.

Here’s my version of California Roll, with fresh crab, avocado and cucumber slices. I added a bit of green onion and some bright red pickled ginger.

The Ika and Shiso Roll is my all time favorite combination for sushi.  Surely by now, you know that my cats are named after this fine synthesis of taste sensations.

I made an Ahi Poke with sesame oil, dried chili flakes, salt and green onion that was delicious rolled up along with fresh shiso leaf.

Another handroll with salmon roe, avocado and shiso leaf.  The combinations are endless…

For dessert, I made Ginger Spice cookies which we enjoyed with ice cream that my cousin Megu brought…

along with her adorable son Ken.  He became tired watching us eat and began to droop.  Soon we all began to feel like this…  Can you believe he is only two months old?  Anyways, we had a lovely time and hope you did too!  Best wishes for 2010!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa January 3, 2010 at 11:04 pm

What fabulous food!

Best wishes for 2010!

Cheers,

Rosa
.-= Rosa´s last blog ..WEEKEND CAT BLOGGING #239 =-.

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grace January 4, 2010 at 9:21 am

this is some spread, foodhoe! those cookies look awesomely tasty–i love the coating of raw sugar. and i’m always stunned by the beauty within a lotus root–so lovely!
.-= grace´s last blog ..who’s up for a game of chess? =-.

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Kirk January 4, 2010 at 9:55 am

Hey FH – Looks wonderful… though my Grandparents would be turning over in their grave if they found out about “non-stinky” Natto (they were from Fukushima)! ;o)

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hungry dog January 4, 2010 at 10:28 am

What an amazing feast! Every single thing looks delicious and intriguing. I love lotus root too…often find it at our family’s Chinese banquets. And don’t even get me started on your stunning photos of the handroll buffet…I just wish I were related to you so I could attend your fabulous buffet next year!
.-= hungry dog´s last blog ..Pasta alla amatriciana (alla Hungry Dog) =-.

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Cookie January 4, 2010 at 5:12 pm

What a wonderful feast! I’m loving all the fresh fish and seafood!
.-= Cookie´s last blog ..Zucchini Muffins Take 2 =-.

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Bonnibella January 4, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Wow, that sounds like a lot of work. I really like your idea of a wrap your own sushi buffet.

p.s. I think you need to ask Santa for a mandolin slicer this year ;)
.-= Bonnibella´s last blog ..Emo/Punk Princess Nail Art – Black, Pink Glitter and More Pink =-.

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Single Guy Ben January 4, 2010 at 11:28 pm

Fantastic and colorful feast. And that is an amazing photo of the sky. I hope you were at least stuck in traffic when you shot it. ;-) Your traditional Japanese dishes combined with fresh crabs and oysters really made it seem like the perfect Japanese-Californian New Year! Happy New Year!
.-= Single Guy Ben´s last blog ..Racking Up the Miles for Ramen =-.

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Fuji Mama January 5, 2010 at 10:50 am

Fabulous job! Mmmmm, I LOVE lotus root too!
.-= Fuji Mama´s last blog ..Happy New Year! =-.

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Mrs. L January 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Everything looks so wonderful, and I’ve never seen lotus root look so beautiful before! Have a wonderful 2010.

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Juliana January 6, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Happy New Year! Wow, nice pictures! Love them all…the food look all so yummie…love Japanese food :-)

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Carolyn Jung January 6, 2010 at 10:44 pm

I tell ya, this is why I needed to be born Japanese (as opposed to Chinese) — just to partake in such a feast every year. :)
I love Japanese food, and celebratory dishes like these just make me hungry with envy.
.-= Carolyn Jung´s last blog ..Lovely Lemons =-.

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aoife mc January 7, 2010 at 10:19 am

Wow, this all looks amazing, your pictures are fab. I really envy you of your proximity to such amazing markets! It can be hard to find decent sushi/sashimi in Dublin without paying through the nose for it.

Happy New Year to you and yours!
.-= aoife mc´s last blog ..Mother of Minestrone! =-.

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rowena January 12, 2010 at 2:12 am

Shiso leaf! Arghghgh! Oh god that photo(s) is putting out some major mojo. I am chomping at the bit for when I’ll be able to start some seeds. I hope the ones that I planted out back will propogate themselves as I simply left them in the ground til they had all seeded, dried and withered.

It looks to me like you bought a new camera?

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