Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Be Kind to Your Stomach!

 Nanakusa Gayu (Seven-herb Japanese Rice Porridge)

Today is the day for Nanakusa-gayu (seven-herb rice porridge) in Japan. It is our tradition to eat rice porridge cooked with seven kinds of herbs on January 7th.

They say that the custom originally came from China more than 1000 years ago. According to the websites I read, the 7th day had a special meaning in ancient Chinese belief, and people back then ate seven-herb soup on Jan. 7th to protect themselves from evils.

After the custom was imported into Japan, people replaced the soup with rice porridge. And gradually it became a nice, kind-to-your-stomach meal with vitamins that people eat after their indulgence in New Year's feast and sake. :)  (Oh, don't be too picky about the vitamin content. Must be better than none. :P)

But were the ancient Japanese really able to find the seven-herbs in the field at this time of the year? I doubt it... Even on the Lunar Chinese calendar, January 7th is still in the middle of the winter. So, some mysteries still remain. ;)
Anyway, thanks to the advanced distribution system, now we can buy something like this at the supermarket.

These were what was inside the package.

1. seri (dropwort); 2. nazuna (Shepard's purse); 3. gogyo (cudweed) ; 4. hakobe (chickweed); 5. hotokenoza (henbit); 6. suzuna (turnip); 7. suzushiro (baby daikon)

What? You don't see 1? Don't worry. I don't, either. ;)
Honestly, I couldn't find seri in the package. Was I too nervous or did they forget to pack it? Oh, well. Let's not make a fuss about it. It cannot ruin my health for the whole year. Right?

Now, if you really want to go authentic, you should make the porridge from scratch, means, you should use raw rice. But today I used pre-cooked rice -- leftover from my parents' breakfast, because it's much faster.

 I rinsed and drained the rice, then chopped the herbs. Then I put the rice and water in the clay pot to make porridge.

As stated above, I wasn't making it in an authentic way, so I poured in some store-bought shirodashi (concentrated dashi stock).

After it started boiling, I added the herbs...
... then seasoned it with salt and soy sauce.

The porridge really warmed me up.

So why do we pass down this tradition in the 21st century? If our stomach was sick from pigging out and our body was craving for vitamins after the Osechi feast, we have medicines and supplement pills. Without doubt, they are much more effective than some wild herbs. Then why this porridge-making?

The way I see it is that it is not the porridge itself that we value. The food is the symbol of the efforts that ancient people made. In order to stay healthy and live happily together, they made the best out of what was available at that time. Such way of life is what we're proud to succeed -- well, at least, I am -- and this custom reminds us of its importance every year.

Everyone, let's stay healthy in 2014!! :D 
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6 comments:

K and S said...

happy new year!

obachan said...

Happy New Year, Kat!

So happy that you still visit my blog.
Wish you an exciting 2014! :D

Anonymous said...

Happy new year! Glad to see some new posts. I don't know if I have ever commented before but I do check in regularly.

-Alan

obachan said...

Happy New Year!
Thank you for checking in, Alan.
I'm going to post more regularly this year, so hope you enjoy them. :)

East Eats East said...

I always wondered what people made with the little radishes and baby turnips that I see in the supermarket this season... I'm going to give this recipe a try. Thank you!

obachan said...

Thank you for your comment and sorry for the late response.
Hope you gave it a try and enjoyed it. :)

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