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Nanakusagayu, Japanese rice porridge with seven spring herbs

Ever tried to make nanakusagayu (七草粥) on January 7? Me neither. I honestly tried to, but wasn’t sure that my knowledge of Japanese would be sufficient to translate the recipe 100% correctly.

In fact, although this porridge has to contain 7 herbs, it doesn’t. Some of them are obviously vegetables. As you might have guessed, eating nanakusagayu is very good because it cleanses the body after many days of celebrating Oshogatsu and prevents diseases (probably the ones that were not counteracted by New Year sake, o-toso). If you got impressed by these attributes of seven-herb porridge, let’s at least try to decipher the ingredients.NanakusagayuA typical set of herbs for nanakusagayu in Tokyo usually consists of: seri, nazuna, ogyou, hakobera, hotokenza, suzuna, and suzushiro. Honestly, those names don’t ring any bells. At least not yet.Nanakusagayu Seri – Java waterdropwort, also known as Japanese parsley or Chinese celery. 

Nazuna is a Japanese name of Capsella bursa-pastors. Most people know it as shepherd’s purse.

Ogyou is also called hahakokusa (“mother and child’s grass”) in Japanese Gnaphalium affine, also known as Jersey cudweed. Apart from nanakusagayu, it is traditionally used for “grass mochi”(kusa mochi), the ones that have a vivid green color.

Hakobera is Stellaria media, or common chickweed. It is native to Europe and naturalised in North America, but don’t ask me how did it get to Japan.

Hotokenza – Lapsana, a flowering plant from the sunflower family.

Suzuna is another name for kabu, a Japanese turnip.NanakusagayuSuzushiro – just an old plain Japanese daikon (literally  “big root”).NanakusagayuI knew only 3 ingredients out of 7, and how about you?

Article by Olga Kaneda

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