Ozoni is the traditional Japanese New Year’s soup. The recipe for ozoni varies from region to region, but it always contains mochi (glutinous rice cakes) and usually has vegetables or greens and some kind of meat or fish. Though some Japanese cooks still make their own mochi, many now purchase them already prepared. In the United States, mochi are available at most specialty grocery stores.
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 c. warm water
pinch of sugar
3 c. basic clear soup, without
mushrooms or chives
4 jumbo shrimp (fresh or frozen), peeled and deveined
12 to 16 leaves of fresh spinach, rinsed
4 thin strips of lemon peel for garnish (optional)
1. Soak dried shiitake mushrooms for about 20 minutes in 1 1/2 c. warm water with a pinch of sugar. Remove from water and set the water aside. (Do not discard.) Cut off mushroom stems and rinse mushrooms under cold water. Squeeze mushrooms as dry as you can, cut each one in half, and place them in a saucepan.
2. Add 1 c. of the water you set aside to the saucepan. Add basic clear soup and bring mixture to a simmer. Cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes.
3. While soup is simmering, cook shrimp in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
4. In a small saucepan, barely cook spinach leaves in boiling water for 30 to 40 seconds. The leaves should just begin to wilt. Drain, rinse leaves under cold water, and drain again. Squeeze water out of the leaves and set aside.
5. Soak mochi in a saucepan of warm water for 5 minutes, then bring water to a boil. Cook for 1 minute or until they begin to soften. Drain and put each mochi in a small bowl. Place one shrimp and 3 or 4 spinach leaves on each mochi. Add 2 mushroom halves to each bowl. If desired, add a strip of lemon peel as a garnish.
6. Remove the soup from heat and pour into the 4 bowls. Serve immediately.
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes
*Shrimp is a popular ingredient in New Years dishes such as ozoni, since the shrimp’s bent back symbolizes old age and long life.