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Tiered Japanese food boxes for good luck and happiness

Tiered Japanese food boxes for good luck and happiness

Japanese homemakers are sharing with their busy local counterparts a useful tip in preparing for New Year feasting. Simply order "o-sechi ryori" or New Year cuisine arranged beautifully in a tiered food box called "jubako." The layered cold foods have all been invested with symbolism appropriate for the New Year.

"The Japanese people consider it very important to observe the 'o-sechi ryori' tradition," pointed out Katsuya Ono, the executive chef at the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei. "When I was a little boy growing up in Tokyo, my mother personally prepared all the traditional food items for auspicious New Year dining. I used to watch her do this at home. Nowadays, however, housewives in Japan conveniently order everything."

Ono and his culinary team at the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei are now providing Taipei's homemakers the wonderful option of ordering "o-sechi ryori" through Azie. Another possibility is to go to the hotel's counter at the SOGO Pacific Department Store to place orders.

One layer of celebratory foods is certain to have "kazunoko" or prepared herring roe and "kuromame" or black soybeans, which have been soaked, boiled till tender and then sweetened, according to Ono.

The Japanese people like to eat the "mame" for good health, good luck and happiness, pointed out Ono. As for "kazunoko," written in Japanese characters to literally mean "many offsprings," its presence in the lacquered box implies a wish to be blessed with many children, said Ono.

Also essential are items like "kuri kinton," which is a sweet confection of chestnuts and sweet potatoes, and "datemaki" or rolled omelet. Regarding the gold-colored "kinton," the sweet potato puree with crumbled chestnuts added is a dish very popular during New Year for it conveys a wish for prosperity. Affluence is likewise suggested through the introduction of gold leaf on the "mame" and in the "sake" or rice wine during the New Year dining.

"Datemaki" calls for ingredients like eggs, shredded whitefish, dashi, mirin and sugar. Its consumption is associated symbolically with looking forward to greater power and glory, according to Ono.

"Kamaboko" or fish-paste loaf also finds its way to New Year feasting for it symbolically responds to a craving to be assured of happiness. The flesh of different kinds of fish can be used to make it. In Japan, shark is the most common. Closely linked to happiness, too, is "konbu," the ever-important seaweed in Japanese food life. One layer of the "o-sechi ryori" box from Azie is filled with seafood. The hotel has entered into a special arrangement with an importer to have fresh winter seafood delights like crabs, prawns and lobsters flown in from Japan for inclusion in the lacquered food boxes for New Year. The "kurumaebi," a kind of prawn, is a symbol of longevity in the Japanese culture.