Crown Tournament 10/19/2019 - O-zoni お雑煮 - Rice Cake and simmered vegetables with fish paste cake

 O-zoni お雑煮 - Rice Cake and simmered vegetables with fish paste cake
Picture by Avelyn Grene (Kristen Lynn)

One of the quintessential dishes of the samurai cuisine is O-zōni, a meal originally thought to have been prepared in field battles consisting of mochi, vegetables and dried foods. This meal was once exclusive to samurai and so it became an essential dish to include in the Crown Tourney feast.

In the Muromachi period, O-zōni was considered an essential dish for welcoming guests to a honzen ryori (a formally arranged dinner) meal. Today, this soup is served traditionally at New Year's. The soups may differ from region to region, but one ingredient is essential--rice cakes also known as mochi. The soup that was served at feast features square rice cakes called kaku-mochi in a clear broth. These rice cakes were common in the Edo period.

According to Eric Rath, the "rice cake soup in Ryōri Monogatari calls for a stock made from miso or clear stock (dried bonito flakes, konbu and salt) and [white/yellow] rice cake, taro, and daikon, [black] dried sea cucumber intestines (iriko), abalone on skewers, large flakes of dried [red] bonito (hiragatsuo), and green shoots (kukitachi)--enough varied ingredients to suggest a five color combination.


It is good to add dashi to nakamiso. Alternatively use a suimono. It is good to put in such things as daikon, gobō, imo, tōfu, bamboo shoots, skewered abalone, dried fugu, iriko, and tsumi’ire (fish ball's made from pilchard, horse mackerel or saury). There are various others.

Creating this soup requires multiple steps.  I must admit, I did "cheat" a little bit and completely bi-passed making the rice cakes in favor of purchasing already made kaku-mochi from the Japanese market where I did most of my shopping.  Each step is easy to do, and the finished product is beautiful to look at.  Bonus is that many of the ingredients can be made in advanced and store well. 

Because I wanted this dish to appeal to most vegetarians, I chose to start the dish with making a vegetarian dashi broth. 

Vegetarian Dashi ベジタリアンだし

4- 2-inch squares kombu (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 quarts cold water

Combine the kombu, mushrooms, and water in a large container and let stand for at least 30 minutes, or up to 12 hours. It gets stronger as it sits, and the taste can vary depending on what type of kombu you use, so with a few rounds you’ll find your preference. If you plan to let it stand for more than 4 hours, place it in the refrigerator, lidded or covered with a piece of plastic wrap.

Alternatively, bring the water to a bare simmer in a saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the kombu and mushrooms, and let stand for 30 minutes.

Discard the kombu (alternatively, chop it up and use it as a nutritious addition to salads and bowls of rice and other grains or to make homemade Furikake (ふりかけ) seasoning to top rice). Pick out the mushrooms and trim off and discard the stems. Reserve the mushroom caps for another use. You may want to strain the dashi through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth if there are small pieces of kombu left behind (I didn't do this)

Vegetarian dashi can be stored in an airtight container for 2 or 3 days.

Kamaboko Fish Paste Cake かまぼこ - makes 2 rolls ~ 18 ½” rounds

1 pound fish fillets (traditionally catfish but I used whiting)
1 egg
½  tbsp. ginger paste
2-3 Tbsp. cornstarch (note: you can substitute arrowroot or rice starch)

Grind white fish in a blender with a little bit of water until it forms a smooth paste.  Add egg, ginger and starch and blend well. Divide fish paste into halves. Coat aluminum foil with vegetable oil and shape the fish paste into logs about  2” in diameter. Roll up and seal both ends of the foil. Steam for 30 minutes over high heat. To test for doneness insert a bamboo skewer into center. If skewer comes out clean, it is done. Refrigerate until cool and then slice into 1/4" rounds.

To color the paste, remain part of it and add juice of young ginger or food coloring. I used pink.  Using a sushi mat covered with plastic (placing it inside of a gallon zipper bag works very well), spread the white fish paste in an even layer over the mat, then spread the colored fish paste above it.  Roll as if for sushi and steam as above.

Kaku-mochi - Rice Cake - 角餅

Glutinous sticky rice
Potato or Rice Starch

Coarsely grind the rice in a food processor and soak for one hour in enough water to cover. Drain the rice and cook in a rice steamer until soft. Allow to cool for about five minutes. Wet your hands and transfer some of the rice to a mortar and pestle. Pound the rice for ten minutes or so until if begins to form a large sticky mass. Add small amounts of water so that the rice does not stick to the sides.

Sprinkle rice starch onto a clean fat surface, transfer the mochi onto the surface and begin to knead until the mochi is no longer sticky. Divide it into smaller portions and continue to knead until smooth, adding more rice starch as needed.

O-Zoni Soup お雑煮

6" length daikon (white radish)
1/2 bunch spinach
1 medium carrot
1 cake kamaboko (fish cake)
4 cups dashi
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. soy sauce
Rice cake

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

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 a simmer. Then stir in salt and soy sauce and season to taste.

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

Note: Substitute for Mizuna - arugula, young mustard greens, or tatsoi in equal amounts.

How to make Puffed Rice to be used as a garnish (not used at feast)

Oil heated to 425 degrees
1 cup rice (any rice)

Once oil is heated, pour in a cup of rice--rice will puff up in about 10 seconds. Drain through a metal sieve, season to taste, use as garnish.

Furikake (ふりかけ) is a dried Japanese seasoning which is sprinkled on top of cooked rice. Ingredients include a combination of dried fish flakes, dried egg, dried cod eggs, bonito flakes, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed and other flavorings.

½ oz reserved kombu (from making dashi)
1 oz reserved katsuobushi (from making dashi ;slightly wet)
1 Tbsp white toasted sesame seeds
2 tsp black toasted sesame seeds
nori seaweed
1 tsp sugar (add more to your taste)
2 tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp salt (kosher or sea salt; use half if using table salt) (add more to your taste)

Gather all the ingredients. Make sure the kombu and katsuobushi are well drained.

Cut kombu into small pieces.Put kombu and katsuobushi in a saucepan and cook on medium-low heat until katsuobushi becomes dry and separated from each other.Cook on medium-low heat until the liquid is completely evaporated.Cook on medium-low heat until the liquid is completely evaporated.

Transfer the furikake to a tray or plate and let cool. Once it’s cooled, you can add toasted/roasted sesame seeds and nori seaweed. You can break katsuobushi into smaller pieces if you prefer.

Put in a mason jar or airtight container and enjoy sprinkling over steamed rice. You can refrigerate for up to 2 weeks and freeze for up to a month.