All around the world, people have traditional foods that they make and eat to ring in the new calendar and/or lunar year. In Spain, a tradition is to eat 12 grapes before midnight for good luck- one grape for each month of the year; In Mexico, tamales are the traditional food, often served with menudo (tripe and hominy soup); in a number of countries throughout Asia and here in Hawaii, long noodles are a tradition; and in the Southern United States, corn bread and black-eyed peas are typical end-of-year dishes. Several countries around the world prioritize foods that are green and/or round, which often are symbols of money and wealth.
Hawaii, with influence from many cultures of people who have settled here over the centuries, has its own traditions. Sashimi or poke is one food that, although consumed with frequency all year (and why would not we eat it all year, given the beautiful bounty we have from the sea), is especially favored for New Years. You can find great sashimi grade ahi year-round, but in the Winter, you may also be lucky to find mahi mahi, several varieties of snapper, marlin, hamachi, and mackerel that will make your sashimi or poke plate pretty and pretty darn tasty. Paired with good wasabi, pickled ginger, a kiss of Island lime juice, and smoked shoyu, you will end the year with a very happy belly.
Also eaten year-round, laulau is another favorite for New Years. Everyone has their own best recipe, but the basics usually include pork, butterfish, rice, and kalo leaves, steamed until the meat is cooked through.
Another staple is mochi, which came to Hawaii with Japanese plantation workers in the 1800’s. Many families take part in mochitsuki, which is the pounding of rice to make mochi. Mochi is thought to impart strength, endurance, and good health for the new year. Once mochi is made, it can be used in a number of ways including ozoni, which is a soup of mochi, dashi, and vegetables.
Whatever you and your ‘Ohana have for New Years, may it not only feed your stomach but your soul as well, and may it lead you to a happy and healthy 2022.