Osechi Ryori : New Year’s Bento Box
New Year is one of the most important celebrations and the longest holidays of Japan. There are many customs and practices related to this time. During the New Year days, people gather with their family and enjoy the holidays by playing games, eating together, visiting shrines and so on. People gather at the shrines during the New year night to welcome the coming year.
Like any other time, during the New Year also, Japanese have some special food items. There are timings for consuming each kind of food. Among them the most popular and a must followed practice is to eat a set of food in special lunch boxes named as Osechi Ryori. This is consumed as the first food just after welcoming the New Year.
There are some lengthy noodles named toshi koshi soba which are also eaten while welcoming the New Year. Osechi ryori bento box will be prepared in advance to welcome the New Year. Family members will eat this set of foods after coming back to their home from the shrines. There are some special food items used to make the Osechi ryori lunch box.
Items in the Osechi Ryori
There are a lot of items included in Osechi ryori. Most of these were storable items as they are prepared in advance and stored for the New Year night. Among them different kinds of vegetables, beans and fish items forms an important part. The number of items may vary according to their wish. Also it depends upon various regions. Some among the items are:
1. Gomame/ Tazukuri: These are the dried sardines soaked in a mixture of heated sugar and soy-sauce.
2. Kuromame: These black beans soaked in sugar syrup are one of the most important dishes during any Japanese celebrations.
3. Kazunoko: Fish roe (tiny eggs) soaked in water and marinated with a boiled mixture of mirin, soy sauce, sake and dashi.
4. Renkon: Thin slices of lotus root soaked overnight in the mixture of rice vinegar, salt, sake and water.
5. Kohaku Namasu: This is commonly the carrot and radish slices preserved in a mixture of sake, salt, rice vinegar and water.
6. Gobo Kobumaki : Burdock root/ Gobo cooked with kombu, dashi and kanpyo(a kind of cucumber).
7. Datemaki : The round sweet fishcakes arranged well in the Osechi ryori box gives a nice appearance.
8. Ebi no Shioyaki: Prawns grilled after soaking it in a mixture of salt and sugar.
9. Kamaboko : These are special Japanese fish cakes. It is made with several fresh fishes and surimi, a kind of white fish.
10. Nishiki Tamago : These are the pieces of steamed eggs in sugar and salt.
There are still many other dishes included in the Osechi Ryori. Each item have their own meanings too. They are believed to be the symbols of prosperity, longevity, good luck etc. with a wish that the upcoming New Year will be filled with all good fortunes.
Appearance and arrangement
Not only is the number of ingredients in an Osechi ryori box that enriches it, but also the arrangement of each dishes as well as the colour of the items also values. The Osechi ryori should have an attractive colour combinations. The arrangement of each item in the box should be neat so that it has a good appearance too.
Photo : Ken Schwarz on Flickr
Usually these boxes will be circular or rectangular shaped with carefully arranged items. According to the shape of the box, the position of each items differ. Like everything else, Japanese take much care in the presentation of the food items in the Osechi Bento box.
Osechi ryori from convenient stores
Preparing many numbers of items to enrich the Osechi ryori is a little harder for the housewives. Now, Osechi ryori boxes are available in all the supermarkets and convenient stores of Japan during the New Year days which makes the job easy.