08 January 2009

New Year feasting, the Jap's way

How is the New Year celebration like at your place?


Jap's homes are generally spring-cleaned and decorated with images of Ox as it is the official animal for this year, according to the Japanese zodiac calendar. On the eve, families gather around merry-making at cosy homes, accompanied with sumptuous dinner and sake ( Japanese wine ).

Back in Singapore, where most homes will have the ladies slog in their kitchen for a great dinner, the Japs have theirs settled in a much less taxing way.

They actually have their feast, ordered/catered. See picture below for an idea. Nice array of food stacked in layers.

I recall the the first time I joined my husband's family for dinner on eve. I felt an enormous pang of remorse and participated with quiet reservations for rest of the night, as I failed to lift a single finger to help out in the kitchen for the elaborate spread. Silly me only managed to discover later, my mother-in-law never had to prepare any food for the eve's dinner, they actually have their entire stuff ordered!

That's so neat, I thought. It eliminates my worries of not being able to prepare some ( read : many, much! ) traditional Japanese dishes in future, and a lot of trouble!


At our little home of 2, we don't order those beautiful stacks of food-boxes that we have little chance to finish. However, we bought ( wide grin ) some dishes from stores to cook up a traditional ambience at home. Introducing my favourites :

栗きんとん ( Kurikinton )


Chestnuts basked in chestnut or sweet tapioca paste, pleasantly sweetened like honey. Richly yellowed as if gold, it signifies abundance and prosperity for the New Year.

黒豆 ( Kuromame )


Large beans prepared tenderly soft, and delightfully sweetened. This protein-rich dish bodes health and strength. Hubby added that it also means a year of smooth work.



Ancient Japanese used these dried fishes as fertilizers, and consumed them in hope for a year of bumper harvest. They are a little hard but deliciously seasoned sweet and salty. I chose my pack garnished with nuts. In a way, I'm glad that modern Japs still cling on to their tradition faithfully, without ruling out these simple but delectably good stuff.

Still, New Year isn't New Year without a decent feast. To make up for the absence of those magical boxes, I prepared a steamboat with heaps of crab, prawns and other prized seafood, in a, ... er hem, rather tedious and Singaporean way. =P


Piggy said...

The little fish with peanuts dish looks like our version of fried ikan bilis + peanuts. Looks yummy, I think it'll taste great with cold beer! haha!

stay-at-home mum said...

For the Japanese, the new year is a big celebration, just like our CNY. I never realised that they ordered the food. Something we should learn from. BTW did you not have mochi?? I thot it was a "must have" for the Japanese New Year?

Kimberly 'Butterfly Wings' said...

Thanks for sharing your special New Year's traditions! When I lived at home (growing up in Maine), my family had a traditional New Year's celebration of shrimp, lobster and salmon. No it became our family's special tradition. Hearing about the scrumptious foods that your culture prepares, it makes me think about creating my own traditions.

Happy New Year from across the miles!


sharilyn said...

so, everything looks so yummy and delightful.. but, i do have ONE question... when you eat those little fish, do you eat their eyes and everything?!?!

and, one other question for you... since you love Singapore so very much, and miss it so, what finds you in Japan? is that where Bear is from? just wondering over here across the sea... : )

by the way, i love those cute little oxen!! i'm not a knick-knack lover, but those are so chubby and cute!

MaryAnn Ashley said...

How interesting! Having everything catered is a great idea, especially for a large group. Or you are right... you just stay in the kitchen while your guests mingle.

Koreans make a similar mini-fish side dish. It's my husband's favorite. He always asks for it at Korean restaurants & they are always surprised.

umekotyan said...





from loved ume tyan

J.H said...

wow that's "ordered" festive box does looks really neat! I was so amazed.
Even though I don't exactly believe in any zodiac sign, I must admit the cow looks sooooo cute :-)

~ Jade ~ said...

What a nice sumptuous spread for the new year! I think Steamboat is definitely an easier alternative. I bet your Bear love the steamboat that you have prepared for him. It's like shabu shabu in Japan, right?

XUE said...

Happy New Year! We spent New Year skiing in Nagano. No snow yet over here - I'm in Tokyo, Setagaya. Our kids attend the German School. This June will be our 3rd year here.

Stardust said...

Piggy! My FIL will flash you a big smile at your mention of 'BEER'! You're so right anyway!

SAHM, you're totally right! Just that I didn't mention mochi. =P

Kimberly, your family's tradition sounds so deli to me. =D

Sharilyn cutie, hahaha, yes dear, the little fish can be consumed entirely. We definitely have more shocking dishes that you may not comply with. =P

MaryAnn, your hubs an interesting partner!

梅子さん、一言でまとめさせて頂きます。。。(~~)難しいわ!! 冷や汗。。。

J.H. Neither do I believe, but I'm comfortable as it does not clash with my belief. The decors are cute, aren't they? Hee...

Jade, know me dear. I have my stuff entirely COOKED.

XUE, thanks for dropping by. Exciting... I wanna attend German school too! Struggling German on my own and almost giving up. Ha!

bp said...

wow, everything looks so good, the huge spread storebought, and all your own dishes too.. well done, must be v yum!