December 20, 2010

Holiday traditions in Japan




Traditional holiday cooking around a world, beside festivity, reflects diversity of cultures and a meaning of the holidays.
Advantage of life in Vancouver is that you can learn most of these interesting facts from your neighbours and kids learn about them in their schools.
So I found out about Japanese Christmas celebration from my Japanese neighbours, even though they are mostly non-Christian. That festive event, like many other holiday traditions, is accompanied by traditional holiday meals.
Japanese food has become so popular around a world and its health benefits are still  not completely understood. There is an interesting story about Yuzuri Hara "Village of long life" where majority of inhabitants live long with excellent health and have never seen a doctor in their life. Apparently it's all because of their traditional starchy diet loaded with hyaluronic acid.
For Christmas eve in Japan, there are now few traditional dishes among which the most popular is a Christmas cake made with whipped cream and strawberries. And for another favourite holiday - New Year's Day, there are several traditional dishes such as the following recipe for Rice Cake-Sweet Peanut Mochi (also enjoyed for Children's Day).  Mochi is symbolically broken at a celebration in January called Kagami Biraki.

Japanese New Year's Day traditional dessert


 

Sweet Peanut Mochi (Rice Cakes)

Ingredients

1/3 cup peanuts, unsalted ½ cup water Potato starch or cornstarch Orange blossom honey, rice syrup, or molasses ½ cup roasted soybean powder kinako (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup glutinous rice flour (mochiko) 

In a bowl, combine rice flour, salt, and brown sugar. In a blender or food processor, grind peanuts until they form a paste. Add the water; process until blended, pour peanut mixture into rice-flour mixture. Stir to form a stiff dough. Lightly knead dough about 30 seconds. In a wok or deep pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Spread the dough evenly over the cheesecloth, about ½-inch thick and steam in a steamer for 20 minutes.
Remove tray from pan and lift out cloth with dough. Pull away cloth, dropping dough onto a flat surface dusted with potato starch or cornstarch. Cool 2 minutes. Knead until smooth and shiny. Roll dough into an 8-inch long sausage roll and cut into 8 equal pieces. Dust lightly with cornstarch to prevent sticking. Form into smooth, round shapes. Drizzle rice cakes with honey and roll in soybean powder. 

Serve on small plates with cups of hot green tea.

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I also wanted to share few more interesting Japanese recipes that would make any celebration really spectacular. 


Recipe from Takayuki Kosaki's "Authentic Recipes from Japan"

Green tea Ice cream-Matcha Aisukurimu
Ingredients
7 tsp (75 gr) green tea powder
1/3 cup of brandy 
5 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk powder
1 3/4 (300 gr) sugar
sweetened azuki beans to serve with

Mix brandy and green tea powder together. In a sauce pan, bring to a boil milk, cream, milk powder and sugar. Remove from a heat and cool. Add in green tea and brandy. At this point, it's important to mix all the ingredients well together or transfer it to the ice cream maker.
To get a smooth mass without ice cream maker, chilled ice cream take out of the freezer after an hour and blend it for a few seconds in a blender or a food processor.

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One of my favorite salads for any home party!

Sushi-roll Rice Salad
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups short-grain sushi rice
2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons water  
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 medium carrot
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 large seedless cucumber (usually English), peeled, halved lengthwise, cored, and chopped (1 cup)
3 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally
3 tbsp drained sliced Japanese pickled ginger, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp sesame seeds toasted
1 firm-ripe avocado
1 (6-inch) square toasted nori (seawead), cut into very thin strips with scissors

Rinse rice in several cold waters in a bowl until water is almost clear, then drain in a colander for 30 minutes.
Bring rice and 2 cups of  water to a boil, then simmer, covered for 2 minutes. Remove from a heat, cover with a towel or lid and leave for 10 minutes.
Bring vinegar, sugar, and salt just to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool  for 2 minutes. Sprinkle rice with vinegar mixture in a large shallow bowl and evenly mix with a wooden spoon. Cut very thin slices of carrot  into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Whisk together wasabi, remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons water, and oil in a bowl, then add rice, carrot, cucumber, scallions, pickled ginger, and sesame seeds and toss gently.
Peel avocado and cut it crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Top rice mixture with avocado and nori strips.

5 comments:

Terrie said...

I also love Japanese food, the dessert and green tea are popular here. Their food are heathy. Your sushi-roll rice salad is my favour. Thanks for sharing it.
Happy Holiday.

Reverend S said...

A nice post from you-again :) had a great time reading it with my 10 years old daughter. She is very into Japan, Manga and Lolita style. Holiday greatings.

Zexxy's wife said...

Thanks a lot for well wishes to both of you. Also one big holiday greeting and cheer to the 10-year old Manga-loving girl from Finland!!!

Flo said...

I wish you a mervellous and magic Christmas to you and all your family...
Bises, Flo

Zexxy's wife said...

Thanks Flo,
Best wishes and Happy Holidays to you and your family as well!