I haven’t gone back to my hometown for a long period of time. The last time I came home was only a short stay just to attend my father’s funeral. Except for that, I haven’t gone back for as long as … well, I can’t remember. I am just too used to living as a Tokyoite to consider myself someone from a different part of the country. On New Year’s holidays, however, there is one traditional dish that I cannot help fondly remembering: Ozoni. It is a soup with rice cake in it and eaten for the first couple of days of the year for breakfast (or lunch). And not surprisingly, as is often the case with tradition, there are as many kinds of Ozoni as there are regions and prefectures.
The one from my hometown looks weird.
Sweet bean paste (anko) is in the rice cake, which is the main ingredient for this white-miso (soybean paste) soup. Sweet bean paste is literally sweet, but the miso soup is a bit salty with a little umami. As you eat on, the entire color will be dominated by this dark bean paste (which is described as gross by some people, but I won’t). I cannot judge its taste myself. It’s just that I am used to it.
It was just several years after I came up to Tokyo when I realized the above was not the standard in Tokyo. Many people here even refused to imagine what it was like to have anko in the miso soup. I wouldn’t either if I were a real Tokyoite. But I like it anyway, probably because the rice cake is stuffed not just with anko but with my childhood.