March 3 is Hinamatsuri, also called Doll Festival or Girl’s Day, celebrated in Japan.
It’s also an early spring festival, associated with peach blossoms, a reminder spring is coming.
In medieval Kyoto, princesses were given dolls, as a wish for health and good luck for the girls and their families.
In later centuries, the holiday became more widespread, dolls more numerous, representing Emperor and Empress, court ladies and ministers, musicians, attendants, along with objects in court life.
Hina dolls have delicate porcelain heads and gorgeous costumes from the imperial era. They are traditionally displayed at home before March 3, and after the holiday, carefully stored away and used for many generations.
In Japan and around the world, shrines, temples, cultural centers, stores have exquisite Hinamatsuri displays during February and March.
Our photo is Hina dolls (Emperor and Empress, court lady and musician) from a favorite store in San Francisco – K. Minamoto Japanese Sweets (648 Market St.).
Tsurushi Bina Decorations
Tsurushi bina are hanging doll decorations.
Porcelain Hina dolls are quite expensive, so traditionally people used small pieces of silk cloth to make animals, flowers, birds, fruits, food, toys, figurines of the emperor and empress.
Tsurushi bina ornaments are given to girls on the holiday.
Hinamatsuri Fun Foods
Holiday foods are an important part of celebrating Hinamatsuri – in pastel colors of pink, green, yellow and white.
For sweets, diamond-shaped hishi mochi, and hina arare multi-colored rice crackers (see photo below), look for these in local Japanese stores in your area.
Fun dish to make at home is Gomokuzushi (chirashiszushi) with pink shrimp, green vegetables, yellow tamago (omelette) and white sushi rice.
Make the sushi vinegar:
½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
Combine ingredients in small pan, and set over medium high heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar has dissolved, 1 or 2 minutes. Do not let boil. Let mixture cool to room temperature.
Cook sushi rice:
Put 2 cups short grain sushi rice into saucepan, add 4 cups water, heat to boiling and cook covered until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 – 25 min.
While rice is still hot, turn out into wide bowl. Add sushi vinegar and gently stir rice until vinegar is evenly mixed in. Let cool to room temperature.
Tip: If you have a rice cooker, fill rice cooker up to 3 line, add 3 cups of sushi rice, select Sushi setting on the rice cooker and start.
1 1/2 lb large shrimp
Peel shrimp (if using frozen shrimp, thaw first).
Lightly oil large frying pan. Arrange each shrimp in C shape around the pan. Gently add boiling water over the shrimp to cover completely, throw in large splash of sake (optional). Simmer until shrimp are curled and pink, about 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from water, cool.
About ½ lb snow peas
Put on a pot of salted water to boil. Have pan with ice cubes and water ready.
Trim peas into a fun shape – cut each in half, and cut out V shape at one end.
When water is boiling, toss in peas, blanch 40 seconds to 1 minute (peas should be bit crunchy). Drain and put in ice bath to set color. Dry on paper towels.
Kinshi Tamago is a shredded egg omelette.
2 or 3 eggs
Here’s a video to see how to make it.
Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl with salt to taste.
Pour little oil into a 6 inch frying pan, and heat on medium low. Add 2 tbsp egg mixture to pan, and swirl around to make a very thin layer. Cook minute or two, then flip over, cook 1 or 2 minute more.
Slide tamago onto a cutting board.
Repeat with rest of egg mixture, stack up the layers.
Roll up all the layers, then thinly slice. The result is a lovely heap of “golden thread egg.”
Tip: Fast and easy, just make an omelette (with vegetable oil in small nonstick pan), turn out, cut into small pieces. What’s important is a lovely yellow color for the dish.
½ cup rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 scallions thinly slivered
Mix together all the ingredients.
To assemble, in each bowl put in scoops of sushi rice.
Toss kinshi tamago over the rice. Arrange shrimp and snow peas, in nice pattern.
Pour dipping sauce over each bowl to taste, or put dipping sauce in small bowls for each person.
This is a very flexible dish, add ginger pickles (in photo), or rather than shrimp, use salmon or crab, for greenery sliced cucumber or bok choy.