Ozoni is a soup the Japanese love to take during the New Year’s celebrations. It includes mochi, vegetables, and a flavourful, nutritious broth. Every family has a unique recipe, but the tiny rice pillows that are bobbing in the broth are the only thing that all of them have in common. Mochi is a soft and chewy rice cake popular in Japan, it is made from short grain sticky rice.

Ozoni is believed to have its origins in the cuisine of samurai society. It is said to be a dish that was prepared during field fights and included dried foods, veggies, and mochi. It was served at the beginning of ritualised feasts known as honzen-ryri, which were well-liked by samurai. Because ozoni was traditionally served as the first course, it is believed that around 500 years ago, as it got more popular in Japan, it changed to being served as the first food of the new year.

Today, the main ingredients of ozoni can be divided into four categories: the dashi base, the seasoning of the broth, the mochi, and then any extra additions.

While there are a variety of possible seasonings for ozoni, the biggest divide is between Kyoto’s Kansai-style, which is distinguished by its creamy white broth flavoured with its famous saikyo miso, and Tokyo’s Kanto-style, which draws in salty umami from soy sauce to produce a lovely, amber-toned soup.

Kiri mochi, which is a rectangular shaped mochi, is mostly used in the Kanto style ozoni while the traditional round shaped mochi which is used in the Kanasi style ozoni.

The distinctiveness of each bowl of ozoni is found in the ingredients it contains in addition to the broth and mochi. Carrots, daikon, and kamaboko (pink fish cake), which add the auspicious New Year’s colors of white (for purity), and red, are popular examples (pink is considered a shade of red, and red is believed to ward off evil). Conversely, combining chicken with leafy greens like watercress or spinach is believed to symbolise success in life (the traditional phrase for “chicken and greens” has a similar sound to one that signifies “honour and recognition”). Ozoni frequently includes regional specialties in addition to these staples, such as niboshi or dried anchovies from Shikoku island, oysters from Hiroshima, nori from Chiba, and salmon and ikura (salmon roe) from Niigata. Each imparts a distinct terroir to the soup.

For this recipe, I borrowed some ideas from my mother’s old cookbook. Using chicken stock as the foundation for the dashi broth and incorporating dried shiitake mushrooms, kombu, and bonito flakes into it were a few of the ideas I took from the cookbook.

The end result is a liquid representation of umami’s many flavours, including shiitake mushrooms, chicken, bonito flakes, kombu, sake (which contains significantly more of the amino acids that we taste as umami than most other types of alcohol), along with textures ranging from crunchy to sticky and nearly everything in between.




  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) dry sake
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
  • 30g sliced or whole dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 10g kombu
  • 2 quarts (2 liters) warm chicken stock, low-sodium chicken broth, or water
  • 115g bunch spinach, washed well
  • 100g piece burdock root, peeled, julienned, and soaked in water acidulated with lemon juice
  • 100g lotus root, peeled, sliced crosswise, and soaked in water acidulated with lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 small daikon, peeled and sliced into thin rounds (cut with a channel knife to look like flowers, if desired)
  • Large pinch bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
  • 2 teaspoons light (usukuchi) or dark (koikuchi) Japanese soy sauce, plus more as needed
  • 8 slices of naruto kamaboko (Japanese white fish cake with pink swirl)
  • 3 rectangular pieces of kiri mochi, each split into 4 pieces
  • 8 sprigs mitsuba (Japanese parsley; optional)
  • Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
  • Zest of half a fresh lemon



  1. Stir the chicken, sake, and one pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Refrigerate for one hour.
  2. Shiitake mushrooms and kombu should be covered with warm stock or water in a 3-quart pan. Give it 30 minutes to stand.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath and bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Boil the spinach for 30 seconds, or until it is tender. Transfer spinach to an ice bath to cool using a slotted spoon or strainer. Remove from the ice bath, squeeze out excess water, and chop coarsely. Leave aside.
  4. Bring the water back to a boil, then add the burdock root and cook for 2 minutes, or until just tender. Transfer burdock to an ice bath, then remove and place in a small bowl. If using, add the lotus root to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Shock in an ice bath before transferring to another small bowl and setting aside.
  5. Cook carrot and daikon in boiling water for 1 minute, or until just tender. Drain and set aside in a small bowl after being shocked in an ice bath.
  6. Bring the pot with shiitake mushrooms and kombu to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Remove the kombu (you can save it for another use). Allow bonito flakes to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Strain broth into a heatproof container using a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse the saucepan, then return the strained broth to it.
  7. Add soy sauce to broth, then taste and adjust as needed; season with salt if you want more sodium without a stronger soy flavour.
  8. Return the broth to a gentle simmer. Drain the excess liquid from the chicken, then add it to the broth and cook for 2 minutes. Cook for 1 minute after adding the sliced fish cake. To keep warm, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
  9. For 2 minutes, heat a medium cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Dry mochi pieces should be added to the skillet and cooked, turning every 30 seconds, until puffed and golden on both sides. Heat should be adjusted as necessary to achieve the desired colour without burning the mochi.
  10. Divide the mochi among four serving bowls. Fill each bowl with burdock root, lotus, spinach, carrot, daikon, chicken, and fish cake. Pour piping-hot broth into each bowl. Add citrus zest, scallions, and mitsuba as garnish. Serve.


By Elijah Hughes

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