Edit ModuleShow Tags
Published:

Happy "Shogatsu" for Japanese New Year



Japanese shrine

Melinda Boyd, MPH, MHR, RDThis featured post is by Melinda Boyd, MPH, MHR, RD. You can follow this blogger @RDontheMove.

In Japan the major religions are Buddhism and Shinto. This means that while stores may be decorated for Christmas, and holiday gifts and baked goods are readily available, Christmas isn't the main attraction this time of year. No, it's New Year's.

In Japan, New Year's — shogatsu — is one of the most important holidays of the year. Businesses will close and families will gather for parties. Malls and shopping centers will stay open, though, at least one New Year's Day. Believe it or not, these stores can be crazier than those in the U.S. on the day after Thanksgiving! Another major New Year's activity is for families to flock to the many shrines around Japan to say their prayers and hope for a good year to come.

Just like all major holidays for the different cultures and religions out there, Japan has a special food for this holiday. Maybe you have heard of it? Mochi. Yes, I said mochi. Let me guess, you have heard of this! I suspect you have, because before moving to Japan this was one of the Japanese foods I had heard of, and I knew that it was a new trend in the U.S. Perhaps you have tried mochi ice cream before. Well, the kind you actually get in Japan isn't quite the same thing, but that may give you an idea about mochi.

Japanese mochi cooking

Mochi is a Japanese rice cake. Unlike a typical rice cake in the U.S. that is made from light and airy puffed rice, mochi is very dense. It is a glutinous, pounded rice cake. It packs a lot of calories into a small amount. As a result, only a small serving should be enjoyed in celebration. Honestly, if you have ever tried actual mochi—not the dessert or sweetened versions—you will know that you couldn't actually eat a whole lot in one sitting anyway.

Aside from the dessert or sweetened versions I already mentioned, mochi traditionally comes in a small rectangular block, maybe about a quarter-inch thick. You can buy it in the grocery store any time of year. It doesn't have much flavor so you wouldn't eat it on its own. Instead, it becomes an ingredient in other foods. For shogatsu it is made into a special soup. I have had it prepared this way, although it wasn't actually around the New Year.

The mochi was warmed by being placed on top of the stove, just resting on a small metal grate so it did not burn. The heat made this start to melt a little and it became a bit chewy and stringy. Then it was added to a soup. You can also just add the mochi to the pot and let it cook in the broth (called dashi), but not too long or it won't have the right consistency.

That dashi is a traditional broth made from bonito. If you have ever had miso soup before, then you have had dashi since it is the base for miso soup. Finally, meats and vegetables can be added to the soup as well. Different regions will use different ingredients.

Although mochi is a traditional food for celebrating the New Year, it has gained in popularity in recent years and is now a treat enjoyed all year long. I have even had it as an ingredient in okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake. Surprisingly, there is a lot you can do with mochi that goes above and beyond the dessert versions. Next time you find yourself in an Asian market, look for the mochi. It's usually sold in a rectangular block, about 1-by-2 inches and ¼ inch thick—but it can also come in round pieces. Then go ahead an experiment! Just one last piece of advice: Be very, very careful! Mochi is very glutinous, making it exceptionally chewy. It is a major choking hazard here in Japan so you always want to chew it well before swallowing.

Happy New Year!  Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu!

Melinda Boyd, MPH, MHR, RD, is a registered dietitian and military spouse living in Japan. She is co-author of Train Your Brain to Get Thin, and blogs at NutrFoodTrvl.blogspot.com. Follow her on Twitter.

Edit Module

More Stone Soup

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme: The Latest "Superfoods"?

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme: The Latest "Superfoods"?

If you're looking to reduce your sodium intake, the good news is that flavor does not begin and end with salt. Instead, look for flavor from non-sodium sources such as herbs and spices.
I Had an Underwhelming GPA and Still Scored a Dietetic Internship – Here’s How I Did It

I Had an Underwhelming GPA and Still Scored a Dietetic Internship – Here’s How I Did It

It's the advice every dietetic student has heard: "Maintain your GPA." However, for some students (myself included) life happens and things don’t always go to plan. Having a less-than-stellar GPA can discourage the most competitive of candidates. However, don’t give up faith!
Farmers Market Recipe Challenge for Kids

Farmers Market Recipe Challenge for Kids

August is Kids Eat Right Month – a new nutrition education initiative of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and its Foundation.
Brighten Your Winter with a Kiwifruit Green Smoothie

Brighten Your Winter with a Kiwifruit Green Smoothie

As we settle in for winter, that's no reason to give up on fresh fruit because the sweet taste of kiwifruit is available all year round!
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Advertise with Food & Nutrition
Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags


Stone Soup

Guest bloggers from around the world share with Food & Nutrition Magazine.

About This Blog

Stone Soup is a guest blog written by members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Content — including information, recipes and views expressed — is that of the authors and does not reflect the positions or policies of Food & Nutrition Magazine or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Bloggers are required to pledge they will not write for Stone Soup on topics, companies or trade organization they currently represent or have represented at any time.

Learn about our guest blogs!

Comments Policy

Food & Nutrition Magazine provides this forum to exchange ideas, opinions and contributions within a positive community. Diverse viewpoints and constructive, respectful dialogue are welcome. Rudeness, misinformation, self-promotion and abuse are not. We reserve the right, without warning or notification, to remove comments and block users we determine violate this policy or our Terms & Conditions. You must include your name or be logged into a personal account on Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or Google+ to comment.

Archives

Edit Module

Get Stone Soup in Your RSS

Use your RSS reader's instructions to add Stone Soup to your list:

Atom Feed Subscribe to the Stone Soup Feed »

Get Our Blogs in Your Email

Stone Soup
Student Scoop