Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Random Picture #143

Happy New Year to all of my readers! If you're Japanese, you're probably on your second day of "osechi ryori" (traditional New Year's cuisine) and not quite burned out on the monotony of the traditional cuisine yet. Of course, if you're Japanese, this blog is probably of no interest to you and you're not reading it!

Though I lived in Japan for a long time, I never partook of this custom for a variety of reasons. First of all, I'm not Japanese and have my own customs for the holidays. For the new year, this mainly included going to bed early and wondering what the big fuss was about when the calendar turned over. Second, the types of food included in such meals generally does not appeal to either me or my husband. That being said, many of my Japanese students and acquaintances were none too thrilled about this food either. Many complained about the general "sameness" of it all, especially that a lot of it was too sweet. 

The point of osechi is to allow the lady of the house to kick back for three days instead of having to hustle and feed everyone. Instead of busting her buns cleaning and cooking from Jan. 1-3, she does so up until those dates, so, hurrah for women's "liberation" during the holidays. That means that traditionalists who make their own osechi make a bunch of food designed to be eaten essentially as leftovers. These days, it's not the least bit uncommon for people to just buy osechi from a department store or market. It's a lot of work to put on a full spread, after all. The Wikipedia page linked above details some of the contents if you want a better idea of what I'm talking about.

The item pictured in this post is one of the things from the osechi repertoire that I love. It's "kuri kinton" which is a rough chestnut and sweet potato puree made with lots of sugar and a pinch of sweet sake. It's like candy, really. The tiny serving shown above was available at Nijiya market for $4.99 (428 yen). It is insanely expensive for a portion which can't be more than a half cup total. I'd imagine this would make two miserly servings.

Fortunately for me, one of my students as a goodbye gift gave me some kuri kinton in a can that lasts up to a year which I can eat this year. After that, I'll have to learn to make it myself or do without. The irony is that, while I was in Japan, I never learned to make Japanese food. I never saw the point since it was all around me and prepared by more skillful hands than mine will ever be.

Incidentally, if anyone at Nestle Japan is reading, kuri kinton would make a fantastic KitKat flavor!


Alvin Sim said...

Happened to drop by your blog while searching for Japanese snacks. I enjoyed reading and hope to see more! =D

ryan becker said...

Your site is wonderful! I have an H-Mart and a 99 Ranch Market near me in Houston and often wonder what a lot of things are. This is great. Also, while in Japan, I just bought random things and ate them... still wondering what they were lol!