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Omedetai chazuke

Filed in: winter

Celebrating the New Year

For the New Year’s holiday the fishmonger supplies plump, large red snapper. Red snapper is celebratory, with red and white flesh the symbolic colors of celebration. We always order one and savor it over a few days and in many ways. On the first we celebrate with sashimi. On the second we grill the fleshiest cuts of bone around the fins, ribs, and cheeks. Each day the tips of our aodake green bamboo chopsticks fade drawing us further into the new year. The remaining fillet is sliced and marinated overnight in soy and sake. On the third day we celebrated with omedetai chazuke.

Chazuke is green tea poured over rice. It’s the ultimate Japanese comfort food, a sort of articulated porridge that warms the soul and fills the belly. In this gourmet version the marinated red snapper is placed atop a bowl of white rice, topped with a dollop of wasabi and heaped with koumiboshi nori. For Tai chazuke you want the tea good and hot to parboil the slices of fish and dissolve the wasabi. But very hot water is an insult to good sencha so we forgo the best grade of tea here.

Hanako has seen me relish more than one bowl of Tai chazuke over the but she is perpetually surprised at how much I love it. Chazuke is just so very Japanese, she says. But I love many things that are so very Japanese, including you, I reply.

comments +

  1. Marj says:

    Back so many years ago, I watched with a kind of awe and envy as Kuniko would end a meal with a bowl of chazuke. Even after a fabulous and varied dinner, this simple bowl of rice and tea seemed to be the most delicious thing she had ever tasted. I tried but could never “get it”. Until what might have been our last meal together before we left Japan: I tried it one last time and finally the secret of chazuke was revealed to me….I don’t really remember the details more than 50 years later, but I do remember the perfect satisfaction I felt. It was SO Japanese, and I loved it.

    • Prairie Stuart-Wolff says:

      Marj, I feel that awe almost every time I eat with Kuniko. Her absolute passion for rice (chazuke) and tsukemono is enviable. H and I often joke that no matter what feast we make for her, if we don’t offer her rice and tsukemono at the end she’ll say we fed her nothing. Sounds like that’s been her favorite part of the meal for some time. I’m so glad to know you felt that perfect satisfaction at least once. I don’t love chazuke on the daily, but I do love tai chazuke, which now that I type it out makes me sound a bit boujie, doesn’t it…?

  2. Hi you two! We miss you. I hope you are both well and happy!

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