Happy New Year’s Eve! In Japan, Ozōni is a soup often eaten as the first meal of the New Year. Preparation highly varies based on the region of Japan and the family. I used a recipe from Marc Matsumoto that is popular in Tokyo with a seasoned clear chicken broth as the base. Dashi is also often used. In Kyoto, white miso is common. My additions to the soup were toasted kirimochi, carrots, spinach, chicken, and shiitake mushrooms. You can also add small meatballs, shrimp, mitsuba, daikon, kamaboko (fish cake), mizuna, or shichimi togarashi.
Kirimochi is the highlight of this soup. Glutinous rice is pounded, then molded and cut into rectangles or squares. The process tends to be labor-intensive unless you have a mochi machine so most buy their kirimochi from the store. I haven’t tried it yet, but Just Hungry has an article on making homemade mochi. Some areas use a round, boiled rice cake (Marumochi), mochi filled with red beans, or even tofu. Take care when eating mochi, especially with young children. It is incredibly chewy and can pose a choking risk.
Evan loved watching the kirimochi puff up and toast in the oven. I was able to find Kirimochi in the Asian market in the snack section near the noodles. It needs to be cooked before adding to the soup. You can use a toaster oven, microwave, or the oven with the broiler on low (I did this). Keep an eye on them while they cook. They toast and expand quickly. You can also find Kirimochi and Marumochi on Amazon in a very limited selection for a higher price than you will find in a local Asian market: SATO NO KIRIMOCHI PARITTOSUITTOand SATONOMARUMOCHI TUKITATE.
If you have any extra uncooked mochi after making the soup, they are often eaten toasted and served with soy sauce. Moffles are also popular now- putting the mochi in a nonstick waffle iron.
Yuzu is a citrus fruit common in east Asia. I was unable to find it, so I used the zest of a Meyer lemon.
You can also use fresh shiitake mushrooms. Just add the extra 1 cup water to the soup in the beginning.
Ozoni (Japanese Rice Cake New Year Soup)
Adapted from PBS- Marc Matsumoto
1 cup plus 4 cups water, divided
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 pound boneless chicken thighs
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced, then cut into flowers
1/4 cup sake
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 small bunch spinach, blanched
Zest of 1 yuzu or Meyer lemon for garnish
Place one cup of the water in a small bowl and add the dried mushrooms. Allow to soak for 1 hour.
Place the chicken in a colander and rinse with hot water to remove any blood or impurities. Transfer the chicken to a medium pot and add remaining 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the carrots, sake, and salt. Continue to simmer for 20 minutes, removing any scum that accumulates on the surface.
After 20 minutes, remove the chicken to a plate. Slice the rehydrated mushrooms. Add the mushrooms, soaking liquid, and soy sauce to the soup. Season with salt if needed.
Place the kirimochi on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil about 3 inches apart. Place under a low broil in oven until toasted and inflated.
Divide the cooked mochi among 4 soup bowls. Top with slices of the reserved chicken thighs, then soup with carrot slices, mushrooms, and spinach. Add zest for garnish and serve immediately.