Doctor’s Tip: A tasty, healthy Japanese New Year’s dinner
Japan is not a Christian nation, so for the most part they don’t celebrate Christmas. They make up for it, though, by celebrating the new year for three days.
The traditional Japanese diet is one of the healthiest on the planet; Okinawa is one of the Blue Zones (five places in the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives). Unfortunately, the Japanese diet is becoming more westernized, and as a result the Japanese are starting to suffer previously uncommon western diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, dementia and cancer of the prostate, breast and colon.
Following is the recipe for the traditional Japanese New Year’s Day dinner, which, given her Japanese heritage, my wife cooks for our family every year. Ozoni, or mochi soup, originated in the 15th century and is a simple soup of vegetables with a sweet rice dumpling called mochi in it. Eating it is supposed to bring good luck for the new year. Traditionally, making mochi involved the entire family, and was done well before New Year’s Day, but now it is available to buy. Mochi and the other ingredients can be found at Carol’s Oriental Food and Gifts in Grand Junction.
Ozoni (Mochi Soup), 5 servings
4 cups water
2 ½ teaspoons dashi — fish or vegetable broth made to accentuate the flavor known as umami
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
10 round mochi — Japanese rice cakes made from short-grain rice
5 slices of kamaboko — fish cake, which you can skip if you don’t eat seafood
1 bunch of spinach cut into 1-inch pieces after blanching
Tofu skins, sliced into small strips
Carrots, celery and mushrooms cut into matchstick slices
Bring ingredients other than the mochi to a boil. Put each mochi individually in a microwave and remove when it puffs up, then add to each person’s serving of soup
Black Beans (Kuromame)
For good fortune during the upcoming year, eat one bean for each year old you are — for example if you’re 10, eat 10 beans.
5 cups black beans
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 ½ cups sugar
12 cups hot water
1-2 packages or cans of chestnuts
Rinse beans. In a heavy pot combine all ingredients, cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for six hours. Turn off heat and let set for at least seven hours, leaving cover on the entire time
Traditionally, dessert in Japan would be a mandarin orange. Another option is manju, made from sweet red beans with mochi on the outside.
These dishes do contain some salt and sugar, but you could use no-salt salt (potassium) instead of salt (sodium). And you could cut back on the sugar.
Dr. Feinsinger is a retired family physician with special interest in disease prevention and reversal through nutrition. Free services through Center For Prevention and The People’s Clinic include: one-hour consultations, shop-with-a-doc at Carbondale City Market and cooking classes. Call 970-379-5718 for appointment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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