Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beauty and the Bowl - Ozoni (Japanese Mochi Soup)

Ozoni, a traditional Japanese New Year's dish, is as simple and complex as a haiku.

One of the things I love about Japanese food is the presentation. After preparing this beautiful Ozoni soup at my Japanese cooking class last week, I wondered if I would ever go to the trouble of making it at home. If I did, I think I would be way too needy. I'd need to hear gushing about the delicacy of the broth, the beauty of the carrot flower, the symbolism of the hexagon shaped daikon, and that cute little knot hand tied in the pink fish cake. And, of course, the essential mochi (missing from the photo above) would have to be praised.

And if guests didn't voluntarily start gushing, I think I would gently point out these things to them. "Did you see that little knot in the fish cake? I tied that myself. And ya' know those carrots don't grow in flower shapes by themselves." So obnoxious.

This is a soup that should be admired and then savored slowly because the cook went to a lot of effort to make it so beautiful and to imbue it with symbolism.

Special cutters are used to make the flower shapes.

This is how the spinach looks before it is cut into 2" lengths for the soup.


1/2 lb. chicken (deboned leg or breast)
6" length daikon (white radish)
1/2 bunch spinach
1 medium carrot
1 cake kamaboko (fish cake)
4 cups dashi (see previous post for recipe)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. soy sauce

- Slice the chicken on the diagonal into thin pieces and sprinkle with salt. Blanch in lightly salted water until whitish . Drain.

- Pare lengths of radish into hexagonal shape and then cut into slices about 1/4" thick. Parboil in lightly salted water until alost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. (Hexagons make up the tortoiseshell pattern. The tortoise is the symbol of longevity.)

- Steam the spinach. (I will have to add more details later about how to get it into the shape shown in the photo above.)

- Peel the carrot and cut into 1/4" rounds. Cut into flower shapes. Parboil in lightly salted water until almost tender, about 10 minutes.

- Slice the fish cake into 1/4" half rounds.
- Bring the dashi just to a boil in a pot. Turn down heat and keep at simmer. Then stir in salt and soy sauce and season to taste.

- Arrange spinach, single carrot slice, single daikon slice, chicken, mochi and fish cake in soup bowl. Ladle hot broth into bowl. Garnish with sprig of mizuna.

I may not recreate this at home, but I promise: if someone serves this to me, I will be the most appreciative, gushing guest in the dining room.

(This recipes was submitted to Blazing Hot Wok's monthly regional recipe roundup. The Japanese event is being hosted by Wandering Chopsticks.)


Wandering Chopsticks said...

Oh, that's totally me. If people don't notice, I'm darn well pointing out to them how much work went into making it. :)

Piper Robert said...

(Imagine Dwight Schrute from The Office.)

Question. The knife being used looks black in the photos. What brand/kind? My sensei uses a Keyaki Kensaki Yanagi.

Question. Why hold the knife by the blade?(Photo CIMG3576.JPG) My sensei taught me the ice pick grip for better offensive tactics.

Thank you for answering my questions.

Dwight Schrute
Assistant to the Regional Manager
Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc.

One Mother with Cancer said...

That looks really good...

Susan C said...

WC, I'm glad I'm not the only one who points things out. Hey, it's all part of the education and appreciation experience.

Robert/Dwight, LOL
The knives we use in class are the worst ever. Next time, I'm bringing my own knife. The teacher is very skilled, so she can make anything work, but I need to have the right tools.

The woman is no doubt holding the knife blade in her hand because the blade is too dull and she's using the wrong type of knife for slicing veggies.

On my wish list: several new knives for the cooking class.

Piper Robert said...

Wish list, aka Christmas list?

Has your instructor ever talked about the best quality Japanese made knives? Or best bang for the buck?

Susan C said...

OMWC, Yes, it really is a delicious soup, especially with mochi. I had two bowls.

Robert, Knives would be a great topic. Our next class is in January (which is why we had the New Year's food class in November), and I'll definitely ask our sensei.

I just entered a contest on another food blog for a free knife. Hope I win!

Ann said...

Darn you Susan! I will fantasize about these dishes until I can get into a decent kitchen to try out the recipes. The presentation is spectacular!

Susan C said...

Ann, for you and you alone I would joyfully make every one of these dishes.

jesse said...

That is just tooooo darned elegant for words.

Pam said...

What a pretty soup. My kids would love the cute shapes. So clever!

Anonymous said...

More complex then a haiku and a lot longer to prepare. You wouldn't have to nudge me to appreciate the beautiful shapes. I'd be all over you with questions. (like now) what is the symbolism of the flower and the hexagon? Being obnoxious is not always a character flaw.
I bought me a pillow of greens at the King (and feta at 3.95 a pound). I don't recommend the Rotissari chicken. Inedible, and I'm not choosey.

mikky said...

and it was really well presented... great job... :)

Susan C said...

Jesse, Yes, elegant is the word, isn't it.

Pam, My former next door neighbor, who was from Japan, cut EVERYTHING into cute shapes for her kids. An apple would become a swan. An orange a bunny rabbit. I felt so lame pulling out my whole apple.

PA, the hegagon shape is for a tortoise and longevity. I think the flowers are just for beauty. I'm glad you clued me in that the chicken at Super King isn't good. I won't waste my money.

Thanks, Mikky. (I like those strokes.)

Cafe Observer said...

SC, looks like we need you to open your own japanese restaurant. Especially if Aun Deli Cafe has to close due to husband' job change.

Susan C said...

Thanks, CO, but no such ambitions. I guess I better get myself over to Aun Deli pronto. I see you have the inside scoop.

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