Noodles for New Year’s
In Japanese culture, it’s traditional to end one year and start the next with a bowl of noodles, specifically soba noodles, called “toshikoshi soba” or “year-crossing soba.” As Makiko Itoh writes in her excellent Japan Times piece on toshikoshi soba, how far back this tradition dates is unclear, but it’s certainly pervasive today.
Because my ethnic heritage is mixed, my family didn’t eat a lot of Japanese cuisine on a day-to-day basis when I was growing up. However, New Year’s was the one time of year when we would be guaranteed to have at least some Japanese foods, usually inari-zushi, kamaboko and satsuma-age. As an adult, I’ve delved a lot more deeply into Japanese cuisine, and eat it a lot more regularly, but these childhood experiences left enough of an impression that I get strong cravings for Japanese food whenever January rolls around.
This year, I indulged those cravings with a bowl of udon in a dashi-based broth. (Sadly, I didn’t have any soba on hand.) It wasn’t a traditional recipe, but an assortment of garnishes that I thought would taste good together: chikuwa fish cake, some blanched watercress, green onion, bean sprouts and red pickled ginger. It may not have been toshikoshi soba, but it was still a great way to kick off the new year!