What is Oden?
Oden is a type of one-pot stew-type dish that is a very popular winter-time food in Japan. Oden usually consists of a few different types of fish cake, fried tofu, konnyaku (yam cake), daikon radish pieces, hard-boiled eggs and tofu-wrapped mochi all simmered for hours in a gentle fish and seaweed based broth called dashi. Ingredients can vary by region and occasionally things like beef tendon, octopus, and giant green onion pieces are included. Due to it’s warming nature oden is extremely popular during the cold months of the year and is often sold seasonally from food carts and convenience stores. In Japan most oden sellers will fill a cup with broth and the oden components of your choice, making each cup purchased a custom one.
On top of having a wonderful taste, oden is also fairly simple to prepare. While all the ingredients, from the broth to fish cakes, can be made from scratch, it is very common to find pre-made “oden sets” in Japanese or general Asian grocery stores. A typical oden set includes the full variety of fish cakes, fish balls, tofu cakes and mochi bags and takes the guess-work out of deciding which ingredients to include. Oden broth can also be purchased pre-made, either as a general concentrated dashi stock, or as specific boxed oden powder. Use the following recipe to make your own oden at home.
Prep time: 1 hr
Cook time: 3 hrs
Total: 4 hrs
1 packet of S&B oden seasoning and soup mix
5 cups water
1 frozen Kibun no Kisetsu oden set (contains chikuwa, hanpen, tsumire, fish balls, tofu and mochi-kinchaku pouches) defrosted
½ daikon radish
1 package black konnyaku
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1 tokyo negi, cut into 3-inch pieces
Spicy karashi mustard (optional)
First, prepare the oden components:
Peel the skin from the daikon
Cut daikon into inch-thick slices
Using a knife, bevel the top edge of each daikon slice. This will prevent the slices from coming apart in the broth.
Parboil the daikon slices until they are soft enough to be pierced by a toothpick. This step is optional, but may help to reduce the smell from the cooking daikon slices later. Simmering daikon has an unusual odor that may be unappetizing to those unfamiliar with the smell.
Set the daikon pieces aside.
Slice the konnyaku into triangles
Parboil the konnyaku for 1 minute, then set aside.
Briefly (no more than 30 seconds!) dip each of the fried fish cakes into the boiling water to remove the excess oil, then set aside.
Diagonally cut the chikuwa (the long tube-shaped fish cake) into 3-4 pieces
Then, prepare the broth:
Bring 5 cups of water to boil in a large stock pot
Add one packet of S&B oden soup mix and stir until powder dissolves.
Reduce to low heat
Once the ingredients are ready, combine them in the following order:
Place daikon slices, tokyo negi slices, hard boiled eggs, and konnyaku into the broth and simmer, covered, for 2-3 hours, periodically skimming any fat that accumulates on top.
After the daikon, negi, eggs and konnyaku have had ample time to simmer, add the fish cakes, fish balls, tofu and mochi-kinchaku from the oden set.
Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes.
Serve oden hot in a pick and mix fashion with a scoop of broth for flavor and a small dot of karashi mustard if desired. Like most simmered stew type dishes, the flavor of oden will continue to deepen as the ingredients sit together, making it taste even better the next day. Oden will actually keep for several days, provided that it is adequately covered, refrigerated, and reheated between servings. If you find yourself running low on broth, simply mix and add some more to your stock pot. Many oden shops in Japan use this method to create a deeply flavorful “master stock” out of broth that has been saved and replenished over the course of years. No matter how you choose to prepare it, oden is wonderful winter treat that warms from the inside out, even on the coldest of days.