There are many traditional and delicious dishes served on one of the most important Japanese holidays, Oshogatsu, or New Year's Day. These dishes are known in Japanese as "osechi ryori." Each dish often represents a wish for good health, prosperity, good fortune, fertility, or happiness.
Kobumaki is a dish that is often served on New Year's Day as part of the osechi ryori feast. It is a Japanese kelp roll ("kobu" meaning kelp, and "maki" meaning roll), that is stuffed with salmon and then rolled closed and tied with a beautiful strip of kanpyo (dried gourd) and simmered with essential Japanese ingredients: soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar. Kobumaki represents joyfulness, or joy, as part of the word "kobu" is also represented in the Japanese term for joyful, or "yorokobu".
While kobumaki is often served as osechi ryori, kobumaki can also be found in Japanese bento boxes or as a side dish to a traditional Japanese meal.
An alternative filling for kobumaki is Japanese gobo or burdock root. It offers a vegetarian alternative to the salmon. The use of burdock root is also symbolic as it represents long life, as the roots themselves are quite long in length.
- Soak kombu (dried kelp) in 4 cups of water for 10 minutes. Reserve this liquid for later use.
- Rub a pinch of salt on the dried kanpyo strips and then rinse with water.
- In a large bowl, soak kanpyo in water for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the salmon fillet into about 5 inch long strips.
- Place a strip of the salmon filet on top of a sheet of pliable kombu and roll it.
- Tie the konbu roll closed, using strips of kanpyo.
- Place kombu rolls in a medium pot.
- Then add the reserved soaking liquid to the pot, using the water that was used for reconstituting the kombu (dried kelp). Pour this over the kombu rolls. Bring this to a gentle boil over medium-high heat.
- Turn down the heat to low. Next add sugar, sake, mirin, and soy sauce to the pot.
- Simmer on low for about one hour until the salmon is cooked through, kombu is tender, and the flavors of the simmering liquid have absorbed into the rolls.
- Turn off the heat. Let kelp rolls rest and cool in the pot.
- Remove the kobumaki rolls from the pot lay them on a cutting board. Cut each piece into halves.
Article Updated by Judy Ung.