Mochi soup is a Japanese holiday meal traditionally prepared on New Year's Day. I went to the Japanese market today and purchased dried mochi, kamaboko (steamed Japanese fish cake), napa cabbage, fresh renkon (lotus root), carrot and chicken on the bone. I already had konbu (seaweed) to help season the stock but that was the only ingredient I had on hand.
It's probably been 30 years since I have had this soup.
So, this was my ozoni soup I made today. It came out FABULOUS! Seriously, it brought tears to my eyes. It was so nostalgic and reminded me of my grandma, when I was a little kid, back when nobody I dearly loved had passed away yet and I sat here after eating this whole bowl thinking about how many loved ones I've lost in the past 30 years.
I felt sad but I'm very happy to know how to make this soup and will make it every New Year's Day from now on.
The soup base was chicken broth with pieces of konbu seaweed. I brought the water to a boil, added the chicken bones and konbu, turned the heat down and cooked on medium heat for about 30 minutes.
I removed the chicken bones from the water and carefully removed the small bits of meat to add back to the soup later. Right before serving I removed the konbu.
While the broth cooked I periodically skimmed it removing fat and oil from the surface. When it was done I added salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Carrots cut with a Japanese metal vegetable cutter (similar to a cookie cutter but much smaller) into a sakura (cherry blossom) shapes.
These were steamed in a metal steamer basket for about 4 minutes and added to the soup just before serving.
Renkon is a mild flavored root that has a nice crisp texture to it. It reminds me a lot of jicama.
The fresh renkon was peeled with a potato peeler, sliced, placed into a bowl filled with cool water with just a splash of white vinegar added to keep the renkon from darkening. After steaming the carrots I added more water to the pot and steamed the renkon slices. These took longer, about 10 minutes. I added them to the soup a few minutes before serving.
Napa cabbage leaves were washed then sliced. The pieces with the thick white stalk were added to the soup broth first and allowed to simmer for a few minutes. The rest of the leaves were added shortly after and just a few minutes before serving the soup.
I added the bits of chicken back to the soup base.
Kamaboko is a steamed fish cake that comes in various shapes but is often colored in a white with pink combination. It is found in the refrigerated section of Japanese and Asian grocery stores.
Just a minute before serving I added the sliced kamaboko to the soup base.
This is what dried mochi looks like. You can order it online. Just place on a cookie sheet or oven rack and bake until the outside crisps and the inside puffs up.
You can also use a brown rice mochi like Grainaissance, Mitoku or Eden brands. It is healthier as the rice is unrefined but for the holiday I used the traditional white rice mochi, just for old times sake.
This is what the mochi looks like after being baked in a toaster oven at 300 degrees for a few minutes.
Add the baked mochi to your soup bowl.
A Word of Caution: Mochi is cooked sweet rice that is pounded into a sticky mass. The result is that mochi is very sticky and if too big of a bite is swallowed without proper chewing it is very easy to choke, even to death, on a bite of mochi. So eat small bites and chew well.
Once you've added your hot soup broth to the bowl you can tear small pieces of mochi off using pointed chopsticks to eat with.
Japanese chopsticks have very sharp ends while Chinese chopsticks are more rounded and blunt at the tips.
Tah Dah! My first attempt at ozoni soup turned out really well! If you want to try making it you can also substitute tofu for the mochi if mochi is not locally available. I'll be making it more often from now on for sure!
And thanks to my friend Sachi who posted this funny video of a Japanese cooking show on Facebook today. On Cooking with Dog, Francis (a small, silver, poodle) is the commentator of the show. He sits in the kitchen right beside the woman making the ozoni in this episode. It was what inspired me to try making ozoni for myself: