Osechi-ryōri – Japanese New Year bento

Happy New Year! Hope you had a lovely time on New Year’s Eve ringing in the new year!

This is the first time I made an osechi – a traditional Japanese New Year bento typically eaten on the first three days of the new year. Each food included in osechi has a symbolism to it. I made this one to share with hubby for lunch today.

It is the first time I tried osechi food, and most of it is quite sweet. The food are traditionally prepared to last for three days, hence some preservatives (such as sugar) are used. They are also traditionally served in Jyubako, large bento boxes.

Osechi-ryōri - Japanese New Year bento

Osechi-ryōri – Japanese New Year bento


The food included in this osechi from the top left are:

  • tazukuri: dried sardines cooked in soy sauce. This symbolises an abundant harvest.
  • Ebi: I steamed large whole prawns for this. They symbolise a long life, as the prawns look like old men with bent waists and long beards.
  • tamagoyaki: The traditional version is datemaki, which is sweet rolled omelette mixed with fish paste. There are versions of osechi that use tamagoyaki these days, and I included this as I personally prefer tamagoyaki. Datemaki symbolises a wish for many auspicious days throughout the year.
  • Nishime: stewed winter vegetables. I couldn’t locate the symbolism of this one, but it is a very typical dish served during New Year’s in Japan. I included carrots, mushrooms and lotus roots (renkon) in mine.
  • Sheep onigiri: I included this for fun, since this coming year is year of the Sheep.
  • Kuromame: black beans which symbolise good health. I bought a ready-made version of this and it tastes very sweet.
  • Kamaboko: boiled fish cake which is typically arranged in alternating pattern of pink and white, it is a celebratory symbol as it reminds of Japan’s rising sun.
  • Kuri-kinton: sweet potatoes with sweetened chestnuts, symbolises economic fortune. I also bought this as a ready-made version.
  • Sushi: not a typical osechi food but most families these days have started including this in osechi. I added these rolls made with avocado and crab meat as I love sushi.

I really enjoyed reading up on osechi and all its symbolisms, as well as preparing this. It is definitely one of the more elaborate bentos I have made to date. Looking forward to having this for lunch later.


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