Zōni, or ozōni, is typical New Year dish consisting of mochi (rice cake) and various ingredients in soup broth. These ingredients can vary widely depending on areas in Japan. Here is a list of 10 local zōni styles!
1) Walnut Sauce Ozōni from Iwate Prefecture
Image source: Shikoku News
In Iwate Prefecture of northeastern Japan, particularly along the Sanriku Coast, a delicious meal is often described as “walnut-flavor” in its local dialect. Iwate is one of the major walnut producers in Japan, therefore it is natural for people in this area to incorporate walnut in their special New Year dish. Grilled mochi is served in soy-based soup first. Then you take the mochi out and dip it in walnut sauce to eat.
2) Salmon and Ikura Zōni from Niigata Prefecture
Image source: Mochiya
A traditional Niigata-style zōni is topped with salmon and ikura (salmon roes), the local staples of the area. Niigata is usually covered with heavy snow during winter time, so cooking salt-preserved salmon is not only done for celebrating New Year, but also an important preparation for passing winter.
3) Azuki (Red Bean) Zōni from Tottori and Shimane Prefectures
Image source: Shikoku News
Image source: Bei One
In Tottori and Shimane, two neighboring prefectures in Chugoku region of Japan, people prepare all kinds of zōni dishes. One of the unique zōni dishes served here are azuki zōni. Azuki is red bean that is often used as filling for traditional mochi desserts. Traditionally, the red bean soup for azuki zōni is not sweetened, but more households nowadays boil red bean with sugar to make sweet zōni. The mochi here is usually cut in a round shape.
4) Nagasaki Assorted Ingredients Zōni
Image source: Mirokuya
Nagasaki has always been a port city and a center of trade since the city’s foundation by the Portoguese in 16th century. Nagasaki’s zōni reflects such versatile nature of the area in that it contains a large variety of ingredients, usually more than 10 of them, including fresh seafood and wild game and vegetables from mountains.
Nagasaki zōni is famous for having lots of ingredients, such as daikon, chicken, kamaboko, dried sea cucumbers, shellfish, gingko, etc., but must-have ingredients that make a typical Nagasaki-style zōni are round mochi, Japanese amberjack, and toujinna (Nagasaki bokchoi).
Toujinna is a special type of bokchoi vegetable harvested in Nagasaki. It was first brought to the area by Chinese traders, and eventually the locals started growing it and turned it into its own kind only found in Nagasaki.
5) Zōni with Taro and White Miso from Kyoto Prefecture
Image source: Honda Miso
Kyoto is famous for its special miso made from rice malt called saikyo miso. A typical Kyoto-style zōni uses round mochi boiled in soup (as opposed to grilled mochi placed in soup) with taro roots and daikon radish, topped elegantly with shaved bonito fish flakes.
6) Kinako Flour Zōni from Nara Prefecture
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Image source: Machiyado
Kinako is roasted soybean flour used in many Japanese desserts. In Nara prefecture, zōni is served in soup first, and then as the mochi gets soft, you take it out and cover it with sweetened kinako flour. This way you can enjoy sweet mochi separately from the soup. The soup usually consists of white miso with tofu, daikon radishes, carrots, and taro roots.
7) Mochi-less Zōni from Tokushima Prefecture
Image source: Shikoku Broadcasting
This is an oddball, zōni in Tokushima area actually doesn’t have any mochi in it. Instead, Tokushima serves mochi-less “uchichigae zōni” with a pair of thick tofu slices stack in a cross shape on top of three taro roots. It is believed that when Emperor Antoku (reigned 1180-1185) fled from the imperial struggle and found a shelter in this area, the villagers cooked soybeans and taro for him. Then the Emperor told them to make soybeans into tofu, so they did, and since then people in Tokushima cooked the same dish to celebrate New Year.
8) Turnip Zōni from Fukui Prefecture
Image source: Mochiya
In Fukui prefecture, zōni is prepared with boiled turnips along with their green stalks. The broth can vary from household to household. Some people use white miso, and others use red miso. Turnips are called “kabu” in Japanese, which is the same pronunciation as “stock/reputation.” Therefore, using turnips is believed to have good luck on one’s future.
9) Anmochi Zōni from Kagawa Prefecture
Image source: ABC Cooking
The zōni from Kagawa prefecture is a combination of Kyoto zōni and Chugoku region’s red bean zōni. The mochi is filled with red bean inside, and cooked in miso soup. It seems odd to have a sweet mochi in salty soup, but it is actually pretty tasty. Before eating, a small amount of aonori (green laver) is topped on the mochi to complete the Kagawa-style zōni.
10) Soy Sauce-Based Zōni from Tokyo
Image source: Cookpad
Residents of Tokyo come from all over Japan, so zōni dishes cooked in Tokyo vary widely depending on households. However, traditional Edo-style zōni uses soy sauce-based soup made from bonito fish stock or dried sea cucumber stock. Typical ingredients to go with are chicken and komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach). It is simple, but sometimes the simplest things make a best meal.
There are many kinds of zōni out there, but no matter the type of zōni you make, it tastes the best when you enjoy it with your family and friends!