Kale isn’t the only food that’s guaranteed to get 2016 started on a stellar note.
In ancient Japanese tradition, families celebrated the New Year with osechi-ryōri, foods that symbolized luck and good fortune. It’s a ritual that’s largely faded but is being resurrected throughout January by chef Kenji Koyama at Los Angeles’ veggie-centric restaurant Necco.
“Osechi reminds me of when I was a kid, but it’s hard to get now because not many [chefs] are doing it,” says Koyama, an ex-musician who’s served as private chef for several industry luminaries—Lorde included. “It’s a [good] challenge for me to do it in my style: traditional with a little bit of a twist.”
In other words, when his eight-course tasting menu debuts at Necco on January 1, expect time-honored dishes jazzed up with healthy and fresh West Coast ingredients. (Like a Japanese root vegetable mix that includes the oh-so-SoCal beet.)
Not in LA? No problem. Here, Koyama shares five symbolically lucky dishes and ingredients that’ll help you start off 2016 on the right foot. But don’t worry about bringing your crystals and vision boards to the table—they’re all meant to be eaten in the spirit of fun. “Every recipe has a meaning—longer life, happiness, success—but it’s not really serious,” the chef says. “It’s just about enjoyment.” —Erin Magner
1. Herring Roe
Want to expand your clan this year? According to Koyama, kazunoko—or herring roe—is the way to go. “The eggs are a symbol of the new year that means ‘to make a family,’” he explains. Want a veggie alternative? Earthy, crunchy taro root is another edible token of baby-making since it grows in clusters—little families, if you will.
2. Yellowtail Buri and Hamachi
Fun fact: In the Japanese language, yellowtail have a different name for each year of their lives (Buri and Hamachi are reserved for the most senior fish). And, says Koyama, “If you work at a company, it’s the same thing: First year, you’re a trainee, and then maybe the next year you become a manager.” For that reason, yellowtail is an osechi symbol of career advancement—grab some on your next sushi date and prepare to climb that ladder.
Long tail, long life? In the osechi tradition, that’s the idea; prawns are the embodiment of longevity (also deemed such because their curvaceous shape resembles an elder’s bent back). For an easy New Year’s Eve hors d’oeuvre, follow Koyama’s lead and prepare them on skewers, cooked with sake and soy sauce.
4. Red and White Vegetables
“Red is a very good color in Japan—it’s the color of happiness,” says Koyama, who notes that red and white is a popular color scheme at weddings. To get a little bit of crimson on your NYE table, consider making a batch of kohaku-namasu—thin strips of white daikon and orange carrot pickled in yuzu vinegar.
5. Lotus Root
If clarity’s what you’re after in 2016, throw some lotus root in your stir-fry. “Lotus has lots of holes, so you can see to the other side—that symbolizes a wish for the future,” explains Koyama. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that the view is desirable, so perhaps don’t try this until after you’ve cleaned up from your midnight bash.
Necco, 1929 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90004, 310-446-5241, necco-restaurant.com
What else will make your 2016 extra-good? We’ve got a few (and by a few, we mean 16) ideas in our Wellness Trends 2016 list...