Whoa. Is my calendar correct? Is it really 2010 already? To be honest, I don’t think I ever really got used to it being 2009 and now I have to start with 2010. What’s a girl to do? Well, this girl decided that the best way to start the New Year is with a new recipe using new kitchen tools!
My wonderful hubs is a much better listener than I give him credit for. Granted, there are times when I could be jumping up and down screaming “FIRE” and he would look at me blankly and say “Are you talking to me?” But when he does listen, he listens well. Like when I look longingly at a mandoline and say, “But I neeeeeed one!” He listens to that.
How do I know that he listens? Because this year a mandoline appeared neatly wrapped in a package in my Christmas stocking from Santa Claus. Apparently, Brad called him up one day and said, “Listen big guy. I need you to do me a favor. You see, my wife thinks I don’t listen but I do!” You can imagine the rest of the conversation from there.
To break in my new toy, I decided to make lotus root chips. The slices have to be really thin, making this a perfect way to test out the mandoline. So, with the thinnest setting in place and my hand guard protecting my fingers, I began slicing the lotus root. Not only was this perfect for the mandoline’s first ride, it was also perfect because the lotus root is a food eaten around the New Year in Japan. According to what I’ve read, the lotus root’s holes represent seeing through to the new year or as a representation of the wheel of life. Either way, it is a delicious and healthy part of bringing in the New Year.
Throughout the past few days, I have found that much of the Japanese culture surrounding New Year’s Eve/Day involves cleansing. Whether it is scouring the home from floor to ceiling and everything in between, eating foods that are healthy and signify luck and prosperity, listening to 108 bells at the Buddhist temples, or sharing a paper cup filled with sake at the Shinto shrines, the Japanese view this as a time to start anew and wipe the slate clean. Check out the photo and video below of our celebration at a Shinto Shrine last night just after midnight. We enjoyed some sake, shiruko (sweet red bean porridge with mochi) and people watching.
Of all the cultural traditions I have experienced living in Japan, this is one that will surely come with me when I leave. New Year celebrations are a time to be together, appreciating the community and the possibility of new and better things to come from that community in the approaching year. It is a time to let go of the past and move on to an unknown future with a belly full of mochi and sake. Sounds like a plan to me!
I hope you all have reasons to celebrate the coming of 2010 and the end of 2009. Here’s to starting over!
Lotus Root Chips with Toasted Nori-Sesame Salt
Makes 6 servings
1 lotus root, about 4 or 5 inches long, cleaned and peeled
Vegetable Oil for frying (you will need quite a bit, so be sure you have enough on hand)
1/4 cup white sesame seeds, toasted and ground (it is possible to find already ground sesame seeds- these will work just fine)
1/4 cup shredded nori or 4 2-3 inch sheets
1/3 cup sea salt
Using a mandoline or sharp knife, carefully slice the lotus root as thinly as possible. For me, I set my mandoline to the thinnest setting. You can go one step up form the lowest setting if that’s what you prefer, but I like mine paper thin.
Set the lotus root slices on paper towels to remove the excess moisture. I layer mine starting with a paper towel on the bottom, then a layer of lotus root slices, layer of paper towel, etc. Press gently on the layers to ensure the moisture is removed.
In a wok, heat 2 inches of vegetable oil. Test the oil temperature by placing a slice of lotus root in the oil. If the lotus root begins to bubble gradually, the oil is ready. If the oil bubbles rapidly immediately, the oil is too hot and the lotus root will burn. When the oil is at the proper temperature, work in batches being careful not to crowd the lotus root. Use a slotted spoon to remove the slices as soon as they have turned brown and carefully place on a cooling rack or a plate lined with paper towels.
When the lotus root chips are finished, make the nori-sesame salt by placing the sesame seeds and nori in a dry pan over medium high heat moving the pan around to keep the seeds and nori from burning. After about 3 or 4 minutes, the nori and seeds should be fragrant and the seeds should appear slightly browned. Remove from the heat and transfer to a spice grinder or small food processor. Pulse until uniformly sized. Add the sea salt and pulse to combine the ingredients. Transfer the salt to a small airtight container.
Sprinkle the lotus root chips with the salt and serve. Light, crispy deliciousness!