Japanese rice cake soup

I had lived in Tokyo for ten years.  My old Japanese friends invited me to their house for New Years and cooked this special beautiful soup. I love that the texture of mochi and the simple flavor of the soup. It is just beautiful to look inside the bowl.

zonisoupOne of the traditional foods served during shōgatsu (Japanese New Year) is mochi. Traditionally, neighbors would get together to make the mochi. It is made of glutinous rice pounded into a paste and formed into shape. The traditional ceremony of pounding mochi is called MochitsukiThe big lump will be divided up into round pieces or squares. Some popular ways of eating mochi are: coating it with anko (a bean paste made of boiled and sweetened beans), kinako (a sweet powder made of roasted soybeans) and dipping it in soy sauce and wrapping it with nori (dried seaweed). By eating mochi, believers hope to gain the strength of the rice divinities.

Zoni (Japanese rice cake soup) is a Japanese tradition to eat on New Year’s holiday. Ingredients for zoni vary region to region. Basically, zoni is seasoned with soy sauce in eastern Japan, and it’s seasoned with shiromiso (white miso) in western Japan.

Prep Time: 15 min.   Cooking Time: 30 min.      Servings: 4 Ingredients:
4 cups dashi soup stock
4 blocks mochi (rice cake)
1/4 lb. boneless chicken thighs
2 inches carrot, cut into thin
4 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed.
3 inches negi (scallion), rinsed and diagonally sliced
1/4 lb. fresh spinach, boiled and cut into 2 inches
4 slices kamaboko (fish cakes)
1 tbsp soysauce

1. Peel the carrot and use the food cutter to create flowers.
2. The top of the shiitake mushroom cap, creating a star pattern.
3. In a large pot, bring the water, dashi and chicken stock to a boil.
4. Skim off any foam or impurities that rise to the surface.
5. Add the carrots, green onion and shiitake mushrooms into the pot. Turn down the heat to low. Add soy sauce in the soup. Simmer for a few minutes.
6. Grill mochi in the oven until softened.
7. Add grilled mochi, kamaboko, and negi slices in the soup.

Let’s say, “Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu!” (It means “Happy New Year” in Japanese).

Korean rice cake soup

I was born in Seoul, Korea.  I remember that my mother and grandmother bought huge amounts of rice cake a few days before New Year and prepared a big pot of tteokguk for New Year’s eve.  After the Korean traditional bow on the New Year, we need to eat the soup to add one-year of age.
photo-from-sempiotteokguk(Korean rice cake soup) is a traditional Korean foods. Garaetteok is the main ingredient  and is made out rice powder and they are sliced up into thin oval shapes. Long waterhose-shaped rice cake; its shape is symbolic wishing for longevity in life. Traditionally, Koreans eat tteokguk in the Lunar New Year’s morning. They believe that they will add one more year to their age with New Year full of good fortune. No one knows for sure exactly why tteokguk became a traditional Lunar New Year’s food. There is one theory that because rice was harvested in the fall and in the olden times, there wasn’t a means of storing it long-term. Thus, making rice cakes was a way of using up the old rice. Old people are so wise.
Prep Time: 10 min.   Cooking Time: 35 min.      Servings: 4-6 Ingredients:
1.5 – 2 lbs rice cakes (Garaetteok)
1/2 lb. ground beef (or anchovy stock)
1 TB minced garlic
4-5 scallions cut in 2″ slices
8-10 cups water
4-5 large sheets of unseasoned seaweed, cut 2”
For garnish: ground beef (cooked with garlic & sesame oil) & egg (cooked flat & cut same size of seaweed)Soy sauce, salt, pepper, sesame oil to tasteDirections
1. Rinse and soak the tteok in a large bowl filled with cold water for 5-10 minutes
2. Cook the beef with minced garlic in a frying pan on medium high heat until fully cooked. No need to add any extra oil. Put a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the cooked ground beef. (or heat the anchovy stock in a pot over medium high heat. Season the soup by adding salt, soy sauce and minced garlic.)
3. Bump up the heat to a boil. Skim off any impurities.
4. Drain the tteok and add to the broth. When the tteok float to the top, they are now cooked and ready to eat.
5.Turn off the heat, sprinkle some black pepper and add sliced green onions.
6. Ladle tteokguk into large bowls and garnish with some beef and egg or cut-up seaweed and sesame oil if you like.

Let’s say, “Saehae Bok Manhi Badeuseyo!” (It means “Happy New Year” in Korea).