Ring in the New Year in a Special Japanese Style


Photo from Peko-Peko.

Want to start the New Year with something besides Hoppin’ John or cotechino and lentils? Try this on for size: osechi bento! Here’s an explanation from Peko-Peko in Oakland: osechi bento are filled with auspicious foods to be eaten on New Year’s day. Traditionally, these bento were prepared at home in the final days of the year and now they are sold (for a small fortune!) in department stores throughout Japan. Peko-Peko’s version includes foods from Japan, including shiny black kuramame [sweet black beans] for robust health, sweet tatsukuri [sweet dried fish] for wealth, and rolled kombu-maki [kelp rolls] for happiness in the coming year. And they have included lots of foods from here on the West Coast as well: spot prawns from Santa Barbara, steelhead salmon roe from Washington, black sugar-cured duck from Sonoma, and herring roe on kelp from British Columbia! You need to place your order by December 26th. The boxes will be available for pick up the afternoon of December 31st or can be delivered directly to your house for an additional charge. The two-level, full osechi ($150) serves 4-5. The one level, half-osechi ($75) serves 2-3. Quantities are limited. Visit the website for a PDF version of the poster with menu details.

Here’s another option from ~NOMBE~, and their site offers some more explanation: “osechi ryori is Japanese New Year food. Traditionally, we make the food at the end of year so that the wives don’t have to cook for three days in the New Year. Originally, it was taboo to cook for three days and all the stores were closed for three days. Now, not only many stores are open except New Year’s Day but also osechi can be purchased from many different restaurants and bento box makers. Osechi is packed in layered boxes.

“Traditional osechi includes the following items: kobumaki (herring rolled in kelp); kuromame (cooked sweet black beans); datemaki (sweet egg rolls); kuri kinton (chestnuts and yam); tazukuri (candied small fish); namasu (daikon and carrot sunomono); nimono (veggie stew); kazunoko (herring roe); grilled prawn; kamaboko (white and pink fish cakes); and grilled tai. All of them are meant to bring good luck for a year.”

Nombe’s osechi comes in a two-layer box, which includes Mari Takahashi’s New Year family recipe of salmon ceviche, duck roulade, and gindara kasuzuke instead of tai. You can reserve a box to enjoy at home by calling Nombe at 415-681-7150 by 12/29. It needs to be picked up on 12/31. $99 (including tax).