A few years ago in Chicago, our friends shared kagami mochi with us, one of the many traditional foods and decorations used to celebrate the new year in Japan. Kagami mochi, meaning “mirror mochi,” is a two-layered stack of white mochi (pounded rice cakes), topped with a citrus fruit, usually a daidai or mikan. A symbol of the new year for centuries, they are called mirror mochi because they somewhat resemble old copper mirrors, and the double stack is considered auspicious. The kagami mochi may be simple stack, or may sit on wooden stands (sanpō) where they are festooned with paper chains (gohei) and other accoutrements. In Japan you can buy kagami mochi throughout December pretty widely, and you can also find it at some Japanese grocery stores in the US. If you don’t have access to this, you can make your own mochi at home. It is then considered auspicious to then “break” the mochi (kagami biraki) and eat them on January 11th!
Tag Archives: New Year
Happy New Year! Bòn ane! And if you are in Haiti, Happy Independence Day! January 1st marks Haiti’s independence from France in 1804, as the culmination of the Haitian Revolution. This independence marked not only the end of French rule in Saint-Domingue (precursor to the modern state of Haiti), but also the end of slavery. On January 1st, to mark the sovereign nation of Haiti’s independence, it is traditional to eat Soup Joumou. Soup Joumou is made with calabaza squash, cabbage, potatoes, scotch bonnet peppers, pasta, and beef. So how did this soup become associated with independence? It is said that during the times of French rule, enslaved people were forbidden from eating this soup, however, once the country became free, this restriction was lifted. As a result, after independence, Soup Joumou became associated with freedom, in many senses of the word. The tradition of Soup Joumou lives on over two centuries later, and just a few weeks ago, the soup was given a protected cultural heritage status by UNESCO. The soup is also popular throughout the Haitian diaspora, and filmmaker Dudley Alexis made a documentary on Soup Joumou called “Liberty in a Soup” [trailer below]. Every family’s recipe is slightly different, so here are a few recipe versions from Epicurious, PBS and WLRN South Florida.
April 14 or 15 is celebrated as Pahela_Baishakh (also spelled Pohela/Poila Boishakh), the start of the New Year in Bangladesh (April 14) and across some eastern Indian states (April 15) with significant Bengali populations. Pahela Baishakh is traditionally celebrated with large processions with floats (especially in Dhaka), but in both 2020 and 2021, Covid has sent the merriment and public celebrations indoors. However, you can still use the occasion of Pahela Baishakh to make a Bangladeshi feast. One of the most iconic dishes for New Year is panta ilish, a dish of soaked rice (panta bhat) and fried “Hilsa Herring”/ilish fish. If you want a bit more inspiration for a complete feast, you can find entire Pahela Baishakh menus on Whisk Affair, India Today, and With a Spin.
Tomorrow, April 13, 2019, is the start of Burmese New Year celebrations – Thingyan – a Buddhist multi-day festival which culminates in huge celebrations for the New Year itself. Thingyan is also known as the “water festival” because during its celebrations, it is not uncommon to get completely drenched in crowds throwing and spraying water. This is said to be a representation of washing off the old year, and the cleansing aspects of the new year. But of course, one of the most important things is the food! A traditional treat for Thingyan is Mont Lone Yay Paw, glutinous rice flour balls stuffed with jaggery (cane sugar), boiled, and topped with coconut. You can find this treat at stalls called Sa Tu Di Thar all around public Thingyan festivities. Making Mont Lone Yay Paw is a group activity during Thingyan, and it has also turned into a haven for practical jokers: sometimes the sweet treat has a mystery, super-hot bird’s-eye chili hidden inside! Mee Malee has a recipe for Mont Lone Yay Paw, and you can learn how to make this dessert below in a video by Kothargi.
Happy Lunar New Year! It is now the year of the pig in Chinese astrology (M’s lucky year!). There are so many delicious traditional foods, across all of the regions that celebrate Lunar New Year, that it is hard to choose one to feature. This year, we decided to go a little off the beaten track, a feature a dish that is specific to Mongolian Lunar New Year, Tsagaan Sar. This holiday is traditionally celebrated with copious amounts of food, including lots of dairy, tea with milk and dumplings. The centerpiece of the Tsagaan Saar (which means “White Moon”) table may be the Ul Boov, a huge layered presentation of cakes and cookies. Ul Boov literally means “shoe sole” and describes the shape of the fried cakes that compose this dish. Check out a video of an Ul Boov being made below.
Wishing you and yours a happy new year! I personally can’t believe that it is already 2019 – over 11 years since we first started this blog! We hope you are celebrating the new year with some good treats and relaxation, perhaps some bubbly as well. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be champagne! Check out this guide from Vine Pair on sparkling wines from around the world! Gayot and Wine Enthusiast have specific bottle recommendations. Cheers!
Over the years we have discovered that one of the most universally beloved foods is the fried dough ball. In the Netherlands, fried dough balls are a traditional New Year’s food called Oliebollen (which translates to “oil balls” – the singular is oliebol). They have been variously known in the US as “Dutch doughnuts” and are called smoutebollen and croustillons in Belgium. Oliebollen have a long history in the Netherlands and were part of Germanic Yule celebrations, and the first written recipes date from the 1660s. The painting below, “Meid met oliebollen,” by Aelbert Cuyp is from 1652.
The legend behind Oliebollen is actually more morbid than I was expecting. According to Paste Magazine:
Eating oliebollen was considered a surefire way to ward off the whims of a cruel pagan goddess named Perchta. Her Teutonic name meant bright or glorious, but she was not always friendly. During the 12 Days of Christmas the goddess was said to fly around with evil spirits looking for something to eat. In her quest she might even use her sword to slice open the stomachs of those who’d already eaten to get at their food. Tradition said that eating oliebollen protected you because the fat absorbed from the cooking oil made Perchta’s sword slide off of her victims.
Oliebollen doesn’t stick to its fearsome origins anymore, and is mostly sold on the streets, accompanied by fireworks! There are tons of recipes for Oliebollen online including The Dutch Baker’s Daughter, Allrecipes and The Dutch Table.
Happy New Year! Even though it is almost 2 weeks after the Gregorian calendar marks the new year – January 13 is celebrated as Malanka – “Old New Year’s Eve” – in the Ukraine. The holiday marks the Julian calendar’s new year and is one of the most festive days in Ukraine, full of caroling door-to-door, costumes, dancing the Kolomyjka, merry-making and of course food. We are novices when it comes to Ukrainian desserts, but we have found a holiday recipe for pampushky – fried donuts filled with poppy seed or prune. These seem to be a cousin of the paczki, another Eastern European donut (this one popularly eaten on Shrove Tuesday). You can find pampushky recipe from Claudia’s Cookbook (below) and Ukrainian Classic Cuisine. Who doesn’t love something indulgent and fried as a perfect cap to the holiday season?
We love this Japanese candy advertisement wishing us a happy new year (in 1956) – we hope you have a Happy New Year, too!
One of our friends’ mothers recently gifted us a large Vasilopita cake in the shape of a fish (which seems to be one-of-a-kind)! Fish or not, there is a long tradition of having Vasilopita – an orange-flavored cake topped with nuts – on New Year’s Day for good luck. Much like a king cake, there is a hidden trinket or coin in the cake that is said to bring luck to the person that finds it. Vasilopita is popular in Greece and the Balkans, and I have seen several permutations of the cake: some including multiple tiers, or a vanilla glaze. Here is a two-tiered Greek version from Epicurious, a glazed version from My Greek Dish, and a Vasilopita with a more bread-like consistency from Bowl of Delicious. Happy new year! Ευτυχισμένος ο καινούριος χρόνος!
This lunar new year, the pastry post-doc is celebrating with an entirely new cake preparation format – steamed. Yep, the cake in question, Nian Gao, is actually a sweet steamed Chinese cake made from glutinous rice flour and brown sugar. Nian Gao (or nin gou) is popular across China, and varies widely by region, as well as in the Chinese diaspora. It is considered a lucky food to have around the New Year, partly because of its name. According to Wikipedia:
It is considered good luck to eat nian gao during this time, because “nian gao” is a homonym for “higher year.” The Chinese word 粘 (nián), meaning “sticky”, is identical in sound to 年, meaning “year”, and the word 糕 (gāo), meaning “cake” is identical in sound to 高, meaning “high or tall.”
Nian Gao is traditionally steamed, and therefore has a more gelatinous texture, as in this recipe, though Chow.com also has a baked recipe. Honestly, though the baked cake may be more familiar, I really appreciate the steaming technique, which is definitely not utilized in many Western sweets. Here’s to a sweet new year!
2014 is rapidly coming to a close, which means its time to reflect on the year gone by, drink some champagne and make some holiday food. One of the traditional Christmas season and New Year’s foods in Quebec is the Tourtière, a meat pie that is emblematic of Quebecois, and Canadian, cuisine. Tourtière has been around since the 1600s, and usually consists of ground pork in a pastry crust. The dish has since spread south into New England and into Louisiana with the Acadian communities, where the pie has been adapted over time to suit new locations and tastes. NPR’s the Salt has a brief history and a recipe and Chatelaine has updated the recipe with a new shape.
Happy Lunar New Year! In China, today is the start of the year of the horse, and it’s time for delicious, celebratory treats as well. We’ve always loved the pretty Chinese cakes made in traditional wooden molds, like mooncakes. But the Red Tortoise Cake (In Hokkien dialect, “Ang Ku Kueh”: 紅龜粿) kicks it up another notch by being shaped like a turtle! Red Tortoise Cake is filled with mung bean paste and covered with a skin of glutinous rice flour and sweet potato (colored red), then steamed on a banana leaf.
The turtle represents longevity, and auspicious cakes are popular for Lunar New Year, birthdays of elders, and to celebrate a baby’s first month. Due to this, you can find them year-round. Along with China, the cakes are also popular in areas with Hokkien-Chinese communities, like Singapore. You can get a turtle cake mold online, and try a recipe from Nasi Lemak Lover. Or perhaps you have your heart set on a tiny, clay rendition of a Tortoise Cake!
We have not given much coverage to Scotland on this blog (well… any coverage), so we think its time they got a little love. Apparently Scotland is quite well known for the fun and over-the-top New Year’s Celebrations, known as Hogmanay. One of the traditions of Hogmanay is “first footing” where you try to be the first person over the threshold of an house, where you then give a gift of food. Sounds good to us! Common foods given are shortbread (in its many varieties) or a fruitcake called “black bun.” Black bun is a little different than the average fruitcake since it is much richer and denser, and is then wrapped in a pastry case. People with lighter tastes may like cranachan, a type of Scottish trifle.