Osechi for the New Year
Looks like I might in Japan over the new year, so I'm thinking of getting an Osechi box.
I've taken a brief look around the department store websites, and it looks like a lot of the boxes by more famous Kyoto ryotei (ie. a lot of the places discussed on this site) run something in the range of Y50,000 for one tier, and Y100,000+ for more than one tier.
What do the people here do for Osechi? Do you usually spring for a box by a famous ryotei, or do you go for something more affordable?
I've been looking at the less expensive options, eg. Y30,000~Y50,000 for multiple tiers, but there's so many to choose from. Does anyone have a reliable "go-to" for an Osechi box in this price range?
(I'm looking to feed two people)
Thanks for your help.
PS. Just to pre-empt: I'll be staying in a house, so there's no problems about delivery/storage (ie. refrigeration).
You've confirmed what I've long suspected about the Osechi "industry."
To be honest, I've never had a store-bought one before. In our household (in Australia), my wife makes it from scratch. It's a long and gruelling process; but it's a labour of love and, at least, it lasts as long as it takes to make. And it's rather affordable.
There are two reasons why I wanted to splurge this year on a fancy one:
1) We would be travelling to Japan around New Year, when a lot of the 'destination' restaurants seem to be closed, so we can afford to budget for a fancy box (although, even then, Y100,000 seems excessive).
2) Never having had Osechi from a ryotei before, I'm curious as to see how (or *whether*) it stacks up compared to what I'm used to.
But yeah, a lot of details about this visit are up in the air at the moment (eg. where could we go out to eat around the holidays?), so we may very well end up in a depachika on NYE, stocking up on o-souzai.
We ordered a "fancy" box a few years ago. I want to say it was from Mitsukoshi or some outfit like that, but I can't recall. Anyway, we had one for the group of us and we just picked at it over a couple of days. In the end, it's really just leftovers. My gut tells me that whether fancy ryotei or Ito Yokado, the industry is full of seasonal workers (baba-san?) in hair nets, gloves, and facemasks that work in assembly line fashion to put them together.
If you are staying in a house, you can consider what we usually do, which is to go online and find purveyors of fine food stuffs and have them delivered on the 31st. We usually get a couple of kilo of very good terbagani from Hokkaido, some bafun uni, and some fresh ikura. It all comes specially packed in dry ice and delivered on the date you specify. We'll also order nice charshu or some ham, quality kazunoko, kamaboko, and maybe a few other snacky things. My mother-in-law prepares her own kuromame and ni-mono and of course ozoni , as well as few other things. We usually grill up some nice big prawns that we buy locally. This stuff we all eat on the 1st- along with fresh sake. We usually eat the crab in the morning, along with typical osechi stuff. In the evening, we have uni/ikura don buri and a couple of other homemade dishes. On the evening on the 31st we pick up a nice sashimi platter from the depachika and my MIL cooks all the other dishes. I usually try to dig up something interesting or exotic as well for tsumami and drinking....If there are just two of you, the depachika have all sorts of great things this time of year and you can fashion a much better meal, even as leftovers, than a prepared box.
Tsukiji inner markets. in year-end days(opened on 29,30dec), usually have special stalls of 'ikura', 'kazunoko', 'shio sake', 'tai', 'kuromame', 'kotobushi(small Awabi)'.. shopping for 'oshogatsu' is rugby game rush, so you'd better get there late, around 9:30 will be better.. And once, one stall are sold out, they have a big 'kimochi ga ii(feels good!)'.. and give you an extra sometimes!!
This is the only time of the year that i am having kaiseki at home, for example
-Uni for beginning, 'sakizuke'
-Plate of sashimi, 'otsukuri'
-First 'hassun', arrangement of ikura, kamaboko, unagi no tsukudani(bought in Nippori)
-Sushi, 'iimushi' sushi made from mochi rice and steamed
-Nimono, small nabe or one of my specialty 'jagaimo + kotobushi nimono'
-Grilled fish, small 'tai(sea bream)', or 'sake'
-Second hassun, presented with 'kamo no ham', 'Yama no sachi(products from the mountains)'
.., and don't forget the 'toshiko soba', and the 'mochi' on the morning..
As Silverjay pointed out very well, there will be too much left over in ordering a o-sechi box. The double hassun is particularly surprising, but a good combination in my opinion to combine the o-sechi 'umi part', 'yasai+yama no sachi'..
No real recipee for such meals, they are a collection of small dishes prepared differently. The important part is not to overcook your 'kotobushi', 5mn max ! And, as mentioned, the two 'hassun' correspond to the 2-3dan of the 'o-sechi' box, if you are two of you, you can buy small portion of 'kuromame', 'kazunoko', 'renkon no su', .. and ask to the department store 2-3 days before to prepare an arrangement plate of 'uni, ikura, shrimp, maguro, ika' for the 31st. The 'ii mushi' sushi are usually found for the 'oshogatsu', or order them on line, price is around 5000 for 5 pieces.. all of kaiseki oshogatsu (should) cost less than the 20,000yens for 4-5persons with sake (necessary!). For 2, it should cost you around half that amount...
From what I have experienced, almost everyone, or every family, makes their own osechi dishes. When people buy prepared osechi from a department store it is usually for a party for non-family members. It should be remembered that all the items in a ryoutei osechi box have special significance, especially for good luck. When a host offers party guests such elaborate new years' dishes it is not just a gesture of hospitality but also an opportunity to demonstrate his or her knowledge of Japanese culture. And with there often being more than 100 different items in a box, you really need to know your stuff.