My family has our own version of the seven fishes tradition for Xmas Eve, we make a pilgrimage to Mitsua Mart in Edgewater, New Jersey and then make our own sushi at home.
The tradition started one Christmas Eve years ago when, as a family, we missed a flight and then, disappointed and confused with no plans for Christmas eve dinner, we stumbled on Blue Ribbon Sushi as one of the only restaurants open that would accept us without a reservation.
The meal was exquisite, a splurge that allowed us to recover from the missed flight feeling like everything happened the way it should have.
Somehow we got the idea to make our own sushi. At that point we started going to Mitsua Mart, a mecca of Japanese ingredients in Edgewater, New Jersey, just over the bridge. Their selection of sushi-grade fish exceeds the selection that I have seen in NYC, and you can find all kinds of other Japanese ingredients like mushrooms (they have quite a selection) and sake.
The tradition of having a seafood feast on Christmas eve is an Italian-American tradition which commemorates the wait for the birth of baby Jesus. It continues to be celebrated in Mediterranean countries like Spain and Italy today, where they embrace different kinds of fish like salted cod, or bacalao.
Our tradition has come to begin with a salad with carrot ginger dressing, reminiscent of the dressing served at Dojo on West 4th St in NYC. Dojo’s not quite the same anymore, but a quick Google search will confirm that we are not the only ones to try to recreate their heavenly carrot dressing. You can find a good recipe here:
Traditionally it has been my responsibility to make the miso soup, decked out with a bunch of mushrooms. I taught myself how from this charismatic Japanese man I found on Youtube one year. Bonus points if you want to check out another version from one of my favorite YouTube channels “Cooking with Dog” It's good for some family-friendly viewing.
Then the sushi.
In the past, we have picked seven fishes that look best at Mitsua. We have used salmon, tuna, squid, octopus, salmon roe, sea urchin and eel. Eel you have to cook and make a sauce for.
Everything is always so, so good.
This year after learning more about the plight of the oceans, I'm encouraged to be more adventurous in choosing fish so as to offset the environmental impact of my choices. According to Alden Wicker, "over 90% of the Pacific bluefin tuna caught in 2013 were too young to reproduce--which means the last generation of the species could have been on any of our plates." For more information check out her full article here.
My favorite thing about this holiday tradition is that it engages everyone in my family and we all work together to create a beautiful meal. There’s nothing like cooking with loved ones. After all, food, like nothing else, brings people together, and it is cool to me how traditions evolve to meet the needs of families as they change and grow.
Do you have any traditions that you love? How have they evolved or come about? Happy holidays to everyone! XX