Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ringing in the New Year

There is one tradition I observe every New Year's: the making and eating of ozoni soup. Ozoni is a Japanese soup with mochi and other ingredients. My grandma would always make this every New Year's morning and all the families would trickle in at various times to eat it. Her soup would contain the otsuimono base, clams, abalone, daikon, mochi, and mizuna.

Ever since moving to Los Angeles, I have attempted to make the soup for myself every year, usually with varying results. My dad was visiting for Christmas so I didn't have time to make a trip to a Japanese grocery store. I usually go to Marukai, either the one in Torrance or downtown. I was thinking of trying 99 Ranch Market, but the only one in the greater Los Angeles area is in my old neighborhood and I'm not quite ready to face the traffic in that area again. So I chose to go to a Korean market in Glendale. The only time I've been to this market was four and a half years ago, with my dad, when I was apartment hunting and going on job interviews.

I can read some Japanese and am very familiar with Japanese ingredients, so I thought shopping in a Korean market wouldn't be too hard. I was wrong. I think I did the best with produce. I was saddened that there was no mizuna. It is a fixture in ozoni and my absolute favorite part of the soup. I hunted around and found some choy sum (Chinese broccoli) which I learned is called yu choy in Korean. At least I think it was the same thing. Not very close to mizuna, but choy sum is another of my faves, so I thought I'd substitute it. I could not find canned clams for the life of me, so I bought a clear container marked "seasoned clams." I'm not a fan. The clams were so salty, even after rinsing them and letting them soak in water. Luckily I already had packets of soup base and mochiko to make mochi at home.

The soup turned out good, which was a relief, but next year I'm going to make sure to go to a Japanese store so I can get my mizuna and clams and get ready-made mochi. And that Korean store was an experience. Ever since I was little, I was always a sucker for food samples in stores. The market had tons of samples scattered throughout, served by women who spoke to me in Korean. I am 3/4 Okinawan and 1/4 Japanese and do not know any Korean save the few phrases I've picked up from Korean soap operas. So my solution? Just smile and nod and say "Mmm!"

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