The first week of New Year is Ozoni time. Ozoni is a clear soup composed around a piece of Mochi, which is made with pounded steamed rice. We drink this soup for good luck along with a dozen other New Years dishes called Osechi-ryori. The stretchy nature of Mochi symbolizes flexibility and endurance.
Some people boil the Mochi but I like mine grilled or broiled so you can enjoy both the toasty outer skin and the gooey inside. It's the same idea as grilling marshmallows. When I was a child, the grown ups told me to eat as many mochi as our age. I couldn't do that today!
For the clear soup, I make a large batch of basic dashi, using bonito flakes and konbu seaweed. It's enough soup to last me a week. You can make Ozoni with a variety of ingredients. Bright colors, especially red, like a piece of shrimp or salmon roe, a slice of carrot is welcome. The only thing red in my Ozoni picture is the red bowl. That's okay too. Each family and region have their own recipes. My friend Yumiko whose family comes from Kyushu uses miso to season Ozoni. Seafood, such as yellowtail, shrimp and crab are popular in Ozoni. I make my ozoni with mochi, small pieces of chicken, greens such as spinach or komatsuna, sweet peas, and a slice Kamaboko, fish cake. The morsels are thoughtfully arranged for visual appeal. I put a yuzu peel on top to enhance the fragrance and color of the soup.
Since Mochi is quite sticky, remember to chew before you swallow! No kidding.
Slice the Kamaboko into 1/4 inch slices, crosswise.
Blanch the spinach or komatsuna. Squeeze out excess water. Bunch it up and cut crosswise into 2 inch pieces.
Blanch the chicken pieces in hot water to remove odor.
Add to the dashi and cook the chicken over medium heat. Add sake, soysauce and salt to taste.
You can do up to this step in advance.
While the chicken is cooking, grill the mochi. Peel the lemon or yuzu. All you will need is a small sliver per serving.
Heat the broth. Divide the Kamaboko, sweet peas, spinach into four. When the mochi is grilled, put one mochi in each bowl, together with the other ingredients. Pour the hot soup half way up the Mochi and put a Yuzu peel for fragrance.
Serve immediately. Chopsticks are handy for eating this soup.