Ivan Orkin (a.k.a., Ivan Ramen) isn't big on New Year's resolutions.
"Lots of people say they're turning over new leaves," says the mastermind behind Tokyo's wildly popular Ivan Ramen chain and the long-awaited Slurp Shop in New York City's Gotham West Market. "Then there's lots of drinking and cavorting and the next day it's all forgotten. I've always found it to be a bit cheap and false."
One resolution he always keeps is to start the first day of the year with a big bowl of ozoni, the traditional Japanese New Year's soup, brimming with an auspicious number of root vegetables, leafy herbs and, most importantly, a puff of crackly, chewy toasted mochi.
A New Year's Day breakfast of ozoni has been an ongoing tradition in the Orkin household since he first learned to make the dish from his wife's Tokyo family back in 2003.
"We all sit down at the table, the kids are excited, and you feel like you're starting the new year," Orkin explains.
"Ozoni is one of those things in Japan where there are 75,000 different versions," Orkin says. "Quite honestly, you can probably put anything you want in there."
He shared his variation from his new cookbook, Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint ($30).
Lighter than his wife's family's kombu-based Tokyo style, Orkin's ozoni is simple and comforting (see the recipe).
"The aromatic flavor of the dashi, the smokiness of the toasted mochi and the herbaceousness of the mitsuba--there's just something very magical about it."