Japanese Americans celebrate New Year’s Day with lots of good luck food. You’re basically rolling the dice hoping that eating a tiny fish will get you through. It’s a bet worth taking.

Every year I invite different people to join in the fun, usually people with kids or who enjoy being kids – but always people who love to eat and aren’t afraid to try some different foods.

Last year was a feast, this year was more of the same, complete with dessert bar. I must always have a dessert bar…

Honey Shoyu chicken wings
Brown Sugar Meatballs
O.G.’s flank steak
Onolicious Chili
Fried Shrimp Balls
Spam Musubi
Somen Salad (noodles – for a long life)
Tazukuri (teriyaki fish – for a prosperous year)
kuromame (black beans – for health and success)
kurikinton (sweet potato w/chestnuts – for wealth)
gobo (burdock root – for a strong family)
FRESH mochi (the best mochi)
kamaboko (joy, happiness)
Ozoni (traditional new year’s day soup)
Broken Glass Jello
Pink An (azuki bean) Mochi
Peanut Butter + Jelly Mochi
Milk Tea Cupcakes w/Mascarpone Frosting

The comments/emails I get most is how do decide what to make for large parties? Well for this one it’s a little bit of tradition and a whole lot of flavor.

I always do two main dishes and if it’s more than 20 people – three:

The difference between my everyday Honey Shoyu Chicken and these party wings? Sake. (Shh.)

Brown Sugar Meatballs are easy because they go in the slow cooker, turn it on and move on to the next item.

Onolicious Chili - not at all traditional but how can you pass up something so onolicious?

A dish that I ask for every year is O.G.’s secret recipe Flank Steak. It’s to die for amazing and even with the recipe I never get it right.

As far as tradition goes, there are certain things you HAVE TO EAT if you want 2011 to be extraordinary:

Tazukuri is a dried sardine that I cook in a homemade sauce. If you can get past little tiny fish heads, they say you will have an abundance of good luck.
Kuromame insures good health. Perhaps this is why I spend so much time in the ER, since I often pass on this dish…

Eating Gobo Kinpira is supposed to keep your family strong throughout the year.

Kurikinton is a Japanese Sweet Potato. It is mashed and then sweetened chestnuts are placed inside. They say the color gold/yellow will bring you nothing but fortune.

Eating Kamaboko is supposed to bring you happiness, but really how can you not be happy looking at something so pretty. These kamaboko are specially made only once a year at New Year’s.

Somen Salad – is how I serve the noodles – noodles signify long life. Every party needs a salad and this is the tastiest. A little noodle, a little lettuce, the perfect side dish. So if you want to live to 90 like O.G. you best be eatin’ some noodles.

You always have to serve shrimp because the bent angle of the shrimp supposedly looks like the bend of an old man’s back so if you want to live long you have to eat shrimp. I know. Crazy talk. But every year I am never quite satisfied with my shrimp dish. This year I made Fried Shrimp Balls. Basically anything good is fried and that sounds like ‘happiness’ to me.

Another tradition is New Year’s Day soup – ozoni. Everyone’s is different. When I was in Hawaii for New Year’s my father in law would make his with abalone. None of that here. First I fill the dishes with small tofu, char siu, shitake mushrooms, mizuna, kamaboko, fried nori chips and toasted mochi. Then I pour a dashi broth on top. If you eat this you are guaranteed a good year. Hear that? GUARANTEED.

Now for foods that aren’t at all traditional but a MUST for any party:

Sushi from Sakae. This is an OLD SKOOL Japanese American sushi shop in Gardena. Nothing fancy, this is the place to get new years sushi if you don’t want to make your own and they are back ordered for months before the new year. It’s a family favorite.

Edamame – also not traditional but I enjoy using my serving platters to the best of their ability and who can resist an edamame tree?

Soooo not traditional, Spam Musubi is a staple for all parties I do whether the party is fancy or not. People love it and I get requests for it all the time.

Forget all this stuff – where’s the desserts??

Broken Glass Jello is usually my MiL’s specialty, but she wasn’t here this year and I just didn’t have room in my fridge, I enlisted the Food Librarian to come to my rescue and make it for me. So pretty.
The Food Librarian also made cream puffs. MY FAVE.

I must make a cupcake for every occasion and this time I used some deeelish loose leaf tea from Royal T in Culver City and made lovely Milk Tea Cupcakes with Mascarpone frosting. Light enough that it was easily eaten after the buffet of new year’s food. That was the hope anyway!

The Food Librarian came over the day before so I could teach her how to make traditional an (sweet red azuki bean) mochi. As she worked on perfecting that I moved on to crazy fillings and made some Peanut Butter and Jelly mochi. Recipe to come.

I provided lots of Japanese snacks too, to eat in between…eating.

I’ve now got this party down to a science and I even made notes to myself from last year, which was weird. I highly suggest you write notes to your future self, “You don’t need to make pork” is something that I will always hold dear.

All in all I made 18 dishes this year, that’s LESS than years past. I must be slacking. Here’s to a lot of good luck in 2011!

**Read about how I shopped for all of this, here. Craziness.