Though it took me over two decades to acquire the taste, I can now unequivocally assert that ozoni is one of my favorite seasonal dishes.
Different regions of Japan do ozoni differently. According to Shun-Gate.com, there are two primary variations: square mochi with clear broth and round mochi with miso broth. There are additional regional varieties in the vegetable and protein ingredients from region to region, but square v. round and clear v. miso seem to be the most prominent differences. I did a bit of online research and put together this infographic based on what I saw:
Here's the link if you want to share this image.
All this being said, if your family has a recipe that's been passed down through the generations, your ingredients may have origin stories in the region where your family was originally from.
While I like the taste of my family's ozoni recipe, what I've come to love is the myriad of different variations and versions from family to family. No two types of ozoni are created equal. Below, we explore this individuality through a presentation of ozoni from different regions and families.
Ozoni in Utah
Paul and Monica Matsushima and their family (originally from Torrance, CA) spent time over the holidays in Utah with members of their extended family. "Had to scrounge to get Japanese veggies at the only Asian market in their part of town," said Paul. I spy shiitake and konnyaku noodles in that bowl.
Ozoni with a Spoon
Nicole Velaso and husband Brendan Bradley from Honolulu, Hawaii enjoyed these his-and-hers ozoni... but minus 10 points for using a spoon.
The Deluxe Ozoni
Never mind the dried shiitake mushrooms, this ozoni has the real thing along with a number of other ingredients to make them fully loaded. Submitted by Marisa Katsuda (Orange County, CA) and David Kenji Chang and his wife Jaime Sugino and family (Orange County, CA).
Daikon and Bonito Ozoni
From John Rankin (Honolulu, HI): "My mom makes a Kyoto style ozoni using miso broth instead of the typical clear broth. Adding a slice of daikon, sato imo, mochi, and some bonito flakes."
Ozoni with Toasted Mochi
I was introduced to ozoni with toasted mochi when dining at a restaurant called Suehiro in Little Tokyo. Toasted mochi is a game changer. These photos were submitted by our own Philip Hirose (Los Angeles, CA), and Timi Higashide (Denver, CO).
Submitted by Emiko Kranz (Los Angeles, CA), the aesthetic of this ozoni bowl and the well maintained foliage in the background (which, by the way, Emiko cares for because she is a plant expert) makes me want to go outside right now and enjoy a nice meal in nature.
The Overachieving Ozoni
Just Kidding. But this ozoni, submitted by Rylan Sekiguchi (Honolulu, HI) is like the Bentley of ozoni. "Toppings include spam, egg, fishcake, cilantro, and green onion. Also, about half my family members prefer an-filled mochi for their ozoni," said Rylan.
Chef's Special Ozoni
Submitted by Nate Gyotoku (Honolulu, HI), this ozoni was prepared by Chef Alan Wong as part of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii's (JCCH) new years program. Be sure to visit their site to check out the program!
Pork Double Soup Ozoni
From Kenshiro and Hisae Uki's family (Honolulu, HI). "What makes it a bit different from the ozoni our friends ate is that it starts with a katsuo dashi and pork double soup. We then add miso and we stew the pork shoulder, shiitake, and kamaboko. Before serving, we toast the mochi and let it also sit in the soup for a few minutes before serving and top it with greens!"
Anyone feeling extra hungry right now?
Naruto Kamaboko Ozoni
From Courtney Ozaki (Denver, CO) and Lynn Miyahira (Honolulu, HI), these ozoni are adorned with those kamaboko pieces front and center.
Submitted by Michelle Yamashiro Hirano (Gardena, CA), her grandmother makes Okinawa soba instead of ozoni for new years.
From Kaoru Utada (Tokyo, Japan), who celebrated new years in Australia this year. Though she wasn't able to bring ozoni with her from Japan, she did bring over this otoso packet.
What is otoso? “First drunk by the aristocrats at New Year’s ceremonies at the palace and later by the general populace, otoso is thought to have arrived from China during the late Heian Period (794-1185). It’s written with characters (屠蘇) that refer to its supposed “evil-slaughtering” and “soul-reviving” qualities, though in modern times it’s imbibed more to keep sickness at bay, and bring health and good fortune. Traditionally people would drink otoso on the first morning of the new year, but it’s now far less common than it used to be.”
Georgette Furukawa (World Traveler) did not follow instructions and sent me a picture of this cat. The cats name is "Mochi," so we'll allow it. Happy New Year, everyone!