Noodles for a Long Life and a Book Give-Away

First of all, I’m giving away a copy of my Japanese cookbook. Read on!
          There’s only hours left before the start of a new year, and I’m doing all I can to catch my breath as I come down from the holiday frenzy of the past few weeks. I’m exhausted and looking forward to a quieter, fresher, newer beginning.  The crazy pace between Thanksgiving and Christmas in America is a vast contrast to Japan – there, Christmas is but a token holiday when people eat Christmas Cake but plug along at work in anticipation of a big bonus.  The real big holiday in Japan is New Year’s, and much work and excitement lead up to that. I remember as a child counting the days to New Year’s, my mouth watering in anticipation of sticky, chewy mochi.
        In some ways, it seems like a saner approach. Here, we party all night and start the New Year wasted. Compared to us, the Japanese New Year’s is practically a spiritual experience, despite the fact that they are probably the least religious people on the planet. It starts on New Year’s Eve with a  a bowl of noodles, which gurantees longevity. Then everyone gets bundled up and sets out for “hatsumode,” or the first (and in most cases, the only) visit to a shrine or temple, just past midnight. You might visit even a few, and do your best not to confuse which rituals to perform at a temple versus a shrine (a temple is Buddhist, a shrine, Shinto). Trains run all night long. There are crowds everywhere, young and old. This is probably going to be the only time you’ll offer a prayer all year, but at least it’s done at an auspicious time.
        New Year’s Day is a blast. Housewives actually spend days preparing the feast, and there is indeed a bounty, especially dishes with mochi, or o-mochi in Japanese. O-mochi is pounded rice cake, and unlike in the US where you can get different flavors, there’s only one kind there: plain. But it’s what you do with it that’s so special. First and foremost is o-zoni, a soup or stew made with o-mochi. A favorite way of eating for kids is mochi that’s grilled until it puffs up and crispens, then coated in soy sauce and wrapped in nori. Mmmm. Makes me hungry just thinking of it, and luckily, I only have to wait until tomorrow to eat it.
         The day is spent eating, drinking sake, visiting friends and relatives. In fact, all of Japan shuts down for the first few days, and the celebration just continues — you just keep on eating, drinking, visiting. My daughter always talks about the 12 days of Christmas, but it generally doesn’t last more than a day. In Japan, sometimes New Year’s trickles out for almost all of January.
          If you want my book, comment below about how you plan to start your New Year.  Get your plans or resolutions in by January 7 (that’s generous!) and then I’ll announce the winner.  Today, I offer a simple recipe for a bowl of warming noodles, and wish you readers all a long life.  I provide below the guidelines to a good bowl of noodles, which starts with a good homemade broth. Otherwise, the recipe is as flexible as you like. You can top it with almost anything, although tempura, wakame, abura-age (fried tofu), and a few non-vegan items I won’t mention, are traditional. It’s a 15 minute recipe, although you’ll need  a couple of hours for soaking. Easy, and guaranteed to lengthen your life.
         Tomorrow, as I won’t be partying all night, I’ll post about o-zoni.

Japanese Udon for Long Life (serves 4)

Udon with broccoli rabe sauteed in sesame oil
 and seasoned with soy sauce

First, prepare the broth (tsuyu) by soaking for 2 hours or more:

4 cups water
1 3″ x 5″ piece of konbu (a type of seaweed)
1/4 cup smoked dulse (optional)
10 dried shiitake

Bring this to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes, then strain. Discard the konbu an dulse. Slice the shiitake thinly and add put in a pot along with the broth. Add the following:

2 – 4 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sake

You can use this broth over Japanese soba (buckwheat noodles) or udon (fat, wheat noodles). Both are generally available either dried or refrigerated. If using dried, you’ll have to boil them according to package instructions, just as you would dried pasta. If using the refrigerated, pre-cooked kind, you can cut corners and just put them directly into the simmering broth until hot. Top with any of the following ingredients and serve piping hot. If you like a little bit of spice, sprinkle on some shichimi togarashi, a spice blend of seven different peppers, available at Asian grocery stores.

Topping Suggestions:

Vegetable Tempura (there’s a great recipe for this in my book)
Wakame, soaked in water until reconstituted
Sauteed veggies or mushrooms
Baked tofu, sliced
Sliced seitan
Chopped scallions


Udon with Wakame

 




Comments

  1. I plan to start off my new year by putting the past behind me and starting fresh.

  2. I am starting my new year with a different way of eating, work toward creating friendships, develop my talents, dream more, launch my new career/business
    getkoneckted@yahoo.com

  3. This is from a friend and reader…
    E. Bond Francisco
    8:24 PM (15 hours ago)

    Good evening Miyoko,

    I subscribe to the Vegan Manifesto, but didn’t see any way to comment, so, because I like free stuff, here’s my plans for 2012:

    Qigong
    Quartet singing
    Voice Over Income
    Adding more vegetables and fruit to my diet
    Feeling as young on January 1st 2013 as I do today!

    Happy New Year!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Thank you for your lovely sharing of New Years in Japan. I read this to my husband as we sat drinking our morning coffee and watching the finches at the bird feeder. My intention is to begin each day with the same serenity. My husband and I each drew an Angel card to guide us through the year. Richard meditated on guidance for all he undertakes and drew the card “patience.” I asked for guidance as I strive to restore my body to it highest level of functioning and drew “openness.” Of course these are the perfect guides for both of us, and we look forward to applying the aspects of patience and openness to all we undertake! Thanks for asking! :))

  6. More yoga, less swearing, more smiling, less stressing, more whole foods, less processed, more green tea, less coffee.

  7. Anonymous says:

    An evening visiting temples and shrines sounds so lovely! I started my new year with a walk on the beach. I plan to greatly reduce the amount of sugar in my diet. LOL, I guess I do this every January…the sugar express starts at Halloween keeps running through December. Time to reset! I also want to spend more time knitting and sewing this year.
    Krista

  8. Love the description of how the Japanese celebrate the new year! I like mine to also be reflective and have a spiritual basis.

    This year I plan to practice self-love—part of which includes eating a plant-based, whole foods diet.

  9. I really enjoyed reading your post about Christmas and New Year’s in Japan. As a third generation Japanese-American, with parents who were in Colorado during WWII, I know very little about my ethnic heritage.This year I hope to learn a little Japanese and read Murakami’s new book!

  10. Your description of how time is spent in Japan this time of year was very interesting. Thank you for sharing that. I’ve always enjoyed my visits there. I hope to include more Japanese plant-based foods and recipes in my diet this year. Also, I’ve been increasing my exercising and hope to make it a more consistent habit.

  11. I celebrated new years day (today) with a sleigh ride and potluck. We also stopped half-way to play a game of pond hockey-it’s a bit of a tradition! My resolution for the year (well Jan. anyway) is to go vegan for 30 days and possibly continue with that longer depending on how I feel.

  12. being present and patient

  13. I just found your blog and am happy to have done so! I used to live in Japan, so I like to keep attached to that culture. I have a mochitsukiki so I made mochi and am having it in ozoni with mizo, and that’s all. This year I hope to eat less processed foods and cook more vegetables.

  14. Hi Miyoko! I found your blog and this post via the CrossFit Vegans and Vegetarians group on Facebook -to which I am also new- and am very happy to have discovered both! My boyfriend is half Japanese, and I know he has struggled a bit to stay connected to Japanese culture while maintaining his vegan diet (and defending it to friends who seem to think it is treasonous to give up fish!) I can’t wait to share your book with him (yes, if I don’t win it I will buy it for him 😉

    2012 will be a year to reduce my reliance on sugar and get back to basics: more plants and fruits as the basis for my carbohydrate consumption. I plan to be active in CrossFit and hope to be an example in that community that veganism can be a healthy and powerful diet for strenth! Happy New Year!

  15. Wow! I am amzed by how many people have a Japanese connection. Japanese food is easy to make, clean in flavor, and generally low in fat. It’s a great way to incorporate plant foods into your diet. Great resolutions being posted here – can’t wait to read them all over the next few days!

  16. Barbara, you are the winner – please email me with your address. I am not sure how to contact you.

  17. I went to the cheeese making presentation by Miyoko at the Sonoma Cutlery in Petaluma on 11/28/12. I made several cheeses from the fantastic book “Artisan Vegan Cheese” for my New Year’s Day party. They were a big hit with my friends. It was a great start to 2013 & I’m hoping that there may be a free book in this for me! My goal is to cook a different cheese every week (once I get my rejuvelac made and receive my carrageenan & agar powders…:-).

  18. jancarpenter55 says:

    Miyoko, I love Udon soup, and so does my nephew. Could you share how to make those lovely fat Udon Noodles from scratch? I would love to make them. I usually purchase them from a small Korean Market in Fresno, and they are delicious. I think it would be fun to make them, however. I love to cook, and I’ve learned so much from all of your books. Thanks for sharing such wonderful recipes. Tomorrow, (4th of July), I’m making your BBQ’d Ribs for the first time with the Bean Curd Sticks. I’m so excited to try them!

    Also, can you tell me if you can purchase Carrageenan in a store anywhere, or do I have to purchase it online? I’m making cheese! =D

    Thank you!

    • Hi, Jan. I should make a video on how to make udon noodles. Yes, lovely fat ones are wonderful! Carageenan is best ordered from modernistpantry.com. They have a 100 gram bag for about $8. You can also get it at Amazon. Be sure it’s kappa carrageenan.