Today is the winter solstice. What do you do on this day in your contries? In Japan, there are two practices.
One is to take a “yuzu-bath” – putting several yuzu fruits in a bath, which is said to prevent cold and flu.
Another practice is to eat food which names include the sound of “n” to bring “un (luck)” – namely, nankin (kabocha = pumpkin), undon (udon= noodle), renkon (lotus root), ninjin (carrot), kinkan (Kumquat), ginnan (ginkgo nut ) and kanten (agar). Among them, the representative one is pumpkin. It is said that, in the old days when it wasn’t so easy to secure food in winter, they kept pumpkins they grew in summer and start eating them on this day.
So today, I made kabocha–zenzai (sweet bean soup recipe with pumpkin). Here’s how to.
Ingredients: pumpkin, red beans, sugar (60% of red beans: please adjust the amount as you like. I prefer less sweetened beans but usually red beans:sugar =1:1.) , a pinch of salt.
- Make anko (sweet bean paste). Wash beans, add them and cold water in a pod. Once it’s boiled, throw away hot water. Add cold water (4 times the amount of the weight of beans) in the pod again. Simmer for an hour. When the beans become soft enough, flavor with sugar and add a pinch of salt. *If it becomes too thick while cooking, add extra water.
- Cut the pumpkin into bite-sizes. Microwave (or steam) them till soft.
- Serve in a bowl.
Tori-no-ichi, which literally means “fair of rooster”, is an annual event held at particular shrines (Otori-jinja shrines are famous) mainly in and around Tokyo, to express appreciation to the deity for the past year and to welcome the new year. In Tokyo, it’s usually held on the days of rooster on zodiac calendar in November, but in the suberbs, there are lots of tori-no-Ichi in December.
In the precincts, rake-shaped charms called “kakkome” are sold. Decorative ones are popular among business owners as they are believed to invite good luck. They are often decorated in small restautrants, bars and shops.
After visiting shrines, it’s fun to look around the stalls selling candy and snacks.
‘Sake kasu (sake lees)’ – an edible byproduct from sake – has been re-evaluated and getting attention in the past few years here. It’s one of the traditional Japanese fermented food. Amazingly nutritious and versatile, ‘sake kasu’ can be used in many ways, from cooking to making all-natural facial masks! This ‘kasu-jiru’ is a very basic recipe using ‘sake kasu’ suitable for cold days.
Cut root vegetables (carrot, daikon raddish, potato etc.) and salmon or pork (I used salmon this time) into bite-size pieces and cook in water with ‘sake-kasu’ (40-50g per person). Then flavor with miso paste (or soy sauce). Top with thinly sliced ginger, chopped scallions and red pepper as you like.
It will make you warm inside and help you adjust a physical condition 🙂
The roots of the scallions I used for making miso soup and planted on Oct 2 (see the details from here) have regrown like this!
Simple and tasty! Enjoy melt in the mouth eddoes.
Sliced pork, eddoes and scallion.
Several years ago, a friend of mine gave me some eddoes that his mom grew with care and taught me this recipe. It’s been my favorite since then.
Cut eddoes and daikon radishes in bar rectangles.
Generally, miso should be added just before taking the pot from over the fire. As for this recipe, however, to prevent the pot from boiling over, it is recommended to add small amount of miso paste before the water boils.