Oden

During the frigid winter months, it’s only natural to crave comfort. For some of us, comfort comes in the form of flannel pajamas and fuzzy slippers, for others it shows up in a hot steaming bowl. Oden is the quintessential comfort food in Japan to take the chill off of winter.

As soon as the leaves start turning color in fall, street carts, ramen shops and izakayas (pubs) all over Japan start serving the simple warming stew. You can even get it in cans out of vending machines. In a way, oden is a bit like what corned beef and cabbage is to Irish Americans.

What’s your favourite comfort food?

While there are many regional variations, the oden I grew up eating uses a light dashi broth with fishcake, egg, konyaku, tofu products and vegetables in it. The ingredients are simmered together and are served with karashi (hot mustard). Like all stews, this one is best made in advance and given at least a day in the fridge for all the flavours to saturate into all the items that are in the broth.

Japanese Oden

I like to make a big pot of this at least once a year. The sweet smoky aroma of dashi is like a plush feather bed for my nose, and the wide assortment of tender fishcakes, vegetables, and tofucakes is light, yet deeply satisfying for a body that’s been burning calories trying to keep warm.

Best of all, the leftovers are great for making Tteokbokki, a spicy Korean stew that starts with oden.

Oden

4 cups dashi (made with bonito and kombu)
3 tablespoons mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)
2 tablespoons light colored soy sauce (this is not the same as “low sodium soy sauce”)
1 tablespoons kosher salt (halve if using table salt)
3-4 (or more) items from Group 1
1-2 (or more) items from Group 2

Group 1

  • Daikon- These are the long white Japanese radishes, they are peeled, then sliced into thick rounds which come out soft and flavourful when stewed in oden.
  • Kabocha- These Japanese pumpkins have a mottled green skin and dark orange interior and have a texture somewhere between butternut squash and sweet potato. Cut them into big wedges. If your kabocha is relatively thin, you may want to wait until the daikon is halfway done before adding it.
  • Sato-Imo- These are Japanese taro roots and are much smaller than the type used in other asian cuisines (about the size of a baby potato and no bigger than a small potato). Peel them and leave them whole if they are small or cut them in half if they are a little bigger.
  • Konyaku- This is one of my favourite things in oden, but may not be for everyone. It’s a hard jelly that’s made from the root of a plant. The texture is a bit hard to describe, but it’s a gelatinous substance that is vaguely crunchy –kind of like some mushrooms and jellyfish are. There’s a trick to give them a braided look which also helps them absorb more flavour. Cut it into 1/4″ thick slices then cut a slit vertically down the center leaving 1/4″ at the top and 1/4″ at the bottom intact. Then you take one end and stuff it through the hole you’ve cut int the center and pull it through to the other side. I know this sounds complicated, but take a look at the pics below.
  • Konyaku step 1Konyaku step 2Konyaku step 3

  • Tofu- If you use plain tofu, you’ll want to make sure you’re using firm tofu, otherwise it will come apart while cooking.
  • Ganmoudoki- I’m not entirely sure how these are made, but they’re little round cakes made of tofu and shredded vegetables that are deep fried. It has a slightly spongy texture, so it absorbs the broth nicely.
  • Atsuage- This literally means “thick deep fried” and is thick cut firm tofu that’s been deep fried giving it a browned “shell” on the outside that helps keep the tofu from falling apart while simmering.
  • Chikuwa- These cylindrical tubes are a form of fish cake.
  • Satsuma-age- “age” is pronounced “ah-geh” and is another type of fish cake with veggies such as carrots, green beans and burdock in it.
  • Other fishcakes- You can use pretty much any kind of fishcake you like or can find including kamaboko, imitation crab, fish balls (chinese), etc.

Group 2

  • Soft boiled egg- Typically you put hard boiled eggs in and cook them along with everything else so it soaks up the flavours, but I hate overcooked egg yolk. I’ve found a good compromise is to soft boil the eggs then drop them in the soup after you’ve cooked all the other stuff and then leave it in the fridge overnight. After a day of soaking in the broth, the eggs will be perfectly flavoured and cooked.
  • Hanpen- This is a unique fishcake in that it’s very light and spongy, quite literally like a cake. It’s very delicate though and if you cook it too long it will turn into mush. I like to put it in after the first cooking and before rewarming the oden.
  • Kinchaku- It’s abura-age (thinly sliced deep fried tofu) stuffed with a small piece of mochi (rice cake) and tied into a little purse with kampyo (dried strips of gourd). These are great, because the abura-age absorbs the broth while the mochi inside gets all melty and soft. Thanks for the name Pakupaku.

Make sure you are using a good quality dashi (preferably made from scratch), this is what flavors everything. Add the mirin, light soy sauce, and salt and bring to a simmer. If you can’t find light soy sauce (a.k.a. Usukuchi Soy Sauce), you can substitute 1 Tbs of regular soy sauce and add extra salt. The broth should be slightly saltier that a regular soup, but not so salty you can’t drink it.

Add the items from Group 1 into the broth, cover, and allow it to gently simmer over low heat until the ingredients like the daikon and kabocha are tender (45 minutes to 1 hour). If it boils, the vegetables will start to fall apart. Take the oden off the heat and allow it to cool down to room temperature.

Add the eggs and push them to the bottom of the pot then top with any other items in Group 2 you are using. Stick the whole pot of oden in the fridge for one day to allow the flavours to mature. When you’re ready to eat the oden, gently warm up the pot and serve with some karashi and rice. It’s also great served as an appetizer with beer or sake.

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com/ Heather

    When I was in Tokyo we didn’t know hanpen was for oden, and we just bought some (at Tsukiji Fish Market), sat down on the curb and started eating it straight from the package like it was a corn dog. One old man felt sorry for us for being such morons that he pulled over and gave us some squid jerky. I’m not sure if it was more embarrassing that we were eating oden without broth or eating at a curb. It’s one of my favorite memories of Japan.

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com Heather

    When I was in Tokyo we didn’t know hanpen was for oden, and we just bought some (at Tsukiji Fish Market), sat down on the curb and started eating it straight from the package like it was a corn dog. One old man felt sorry for us for being such morons that he pulled over and gave us some squid jerky. I’m not sure if it was more embarrassing that we were eating oden without broth or eating at a curb. It’s one of my favorite memories of Japan.

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com/ Manggy

    Gosh Marc, everything seems so carefully and meticulously prepared. It’s quite beautiful. Makes me wonder what the vending machine versions are like– must be what Hershey’s is to Godiva.
    Comfort food? Hmm, adobo is way up there. It changes a lot from time to time :)

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com Manggy

    Gosh Marc, everything seems so carefully and meticulously prepared. It’s quite beautiful. Makes me wonder what the vending machine versions are like– must be what Hershey’s is to Godiva.
    Comfort food? Hmm, adobo is way up there. It changes a lot from time to time :)

  • http://kyotofoodie.com/ PakuPaku

    Hello, Marc-san,
    I have replied to your question about Kinchaku purse on KyotoFoodie.
    Ganmodoki is a deep fried mixture of tofu, grated Japanese yam potato and vegetables. They soak up yummy soup very well and is my favorite oden!

  • http://kyotofoodie.com PakuPaku

    Hello, Marc-san,
    I have replied to your question about Kinchaku purse on KyotoFoodie.
    Ganmodoki is a deep fried mixture of tofu, grated Japanese yam potato and vegetables. They soak up yummy soup very well and is my favorite oden!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ We Are Never Full

    i love your japanese dishes. to me, they are foreign enough that i really need to learn more and not fear trying to cook more of this type of food at home. you make it seem easy.

    as for my fave comfort food, well it varies. but mainly it would be roasts… roast lamb, roast beef, etc. along w/ perfectly crispy roast potatoes and a fabulous green on the side. it makes me want to turn on jazz and tuck in.

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com We Are Never Full

    i love your japanese dishes. to me, they are foreign enough that i really need to learn more and not fear trying to cook more of this type of food at home. you make it seem easy.

    as for my fave comfort food, well it varies. but mainly it would be roasts… roast lamb, roast beef, etc. along w/ perfectly crispy roast potatoes and a fabulous green on the side. it makes me want to turn on jazz and tuck in.

  • http://tastewiththeeyes.blogspot.com/ Lori Lynn

    All very interesting. I like the idea of soaking eggs in broth to flavor them. Looking forward to trying that, as I love eggs!

  • http://tastewiththeeyes.blogspot.com/ Lori Lynn

    All very interesting. I like the idea of soaking eggs in broth to flavor them. Looking forward to trying that, as I love eggs!

  • http://www.brewedchocolate.com/ Me

    Wow. That looks tasty! Nice photo, too.

    My favorite comfort food is definitely pizza.

  • http://www.brewedchocolate.com Me

    Wow. That looks tasty! Nice photo, too.

    My favorite comfort food is definitely pizza.

  • http://www.cookingschools101.com/celebrity-chefs/ Famous Cooks

    I was interested in Japanese comfort foods. This “Oden” recipe is great, with so many ingredients.

    Thanks for posting.

    Alice

  • http://www.cookingschools101.com/celebrity-chefs/ Famous Cooks

    I was interested in Japanese comfort foods. This “Oden” recipe is great, with so many ingredients.

    Thanks for posting.

    Alice

  • http://www.thesummertreecafe.blogspot.com/ Katie

    Wow, great post! Lovely photos, too.

  • http://www.thesummertreecafe.blogspot.com Katie

    Wow, great post! Lovely photos, too.

  • http://www.sugarbar.org/ diva

    marc, i like the new blog title picture! and this post just makes me feel slightly homesick. i miss my mum’s oden. and it’s getting awfully cold and grey in England which makes me crave it more.

  • http://www.sugarbar.org diva

    marc, i like the new blog title picture! and this post just makes me feel slightly homesick. i miss my mum’s oden. and it’s getting awfully cold and grey in England which makes me crave it more.

  • http://www.noobcook.com/ noobcook

    It looks fantastic! As I said b4, I love all your Japanese cooking =D

  • http://www.noobcook.com noobcook

    It looks fantastic! As I said b4, I love all your Japanese cooking =D

  • http://feistyfoodie.blogspot.com/ Yvo

    Heh, my friend posted and mentioned oden today and I hadn’t the foggiest what she was talking about. Funny that you posted a recipe for it :)

  • http://feistyfoodie.blogspot.com Yvo

    Heh, my friend posted and mentioned oden today and I hadn’t the foggiest what she was talking about. Funny that you posted a recipe for it :)

  • http://www.soyandpepper.com/ Nilmandra

    One of my favourite comfort food is yong tau foo, which is very similar to oden. Well, the soup version at least (fish cake, vegetables, tofu and other ingredients stuffed with fish paste). I also love the dry and fried version, heh.

    I rather like konyaku noodles.

  • http://www.soyandpepper.com Nilmandra

    One of my favourite comfort food is yong tau foo, which is very similar to oden. Well, the soup version at least (fish cake, vegetables, tofu and other ingredients stuffed with fish paste). I also love the dry and fried version, heh.

    I rather like konyaku noodles.

  • Pingback: Tteokbokki (spicy ricecake stew) | [ No Recipes ]

  • http://www.bestfruitmachines.me.uk/ fruit machines jamie

    the comments here are having a laugh – i’ve added your blog to my netvibes account, keep up the good work :)

  • http://www.bestfruitmachines.me.uk fruit machines jamie

    the comments here are having a laugh – i’ve added your blog to my netvibes account, keep up the good work :)

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  • http://www.oilandbutter.com Rich

    So those tube things are fish cakes? That’s so freaking cool. That whole stew looks fantastic, man; that’s better than fruzzy slippers any day.

  • Norma823

    Peerfect for this New York weather.

    Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year!

  • http://inomthings.com ila

    oishisoooooou!!!!! my family always ate oden on new years eve because we don’t like the year-end soba.

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  • http://twitter.com/HollyHadsell Holly Hadsell Hajji

    Love Oden, there is 2 restaurants here that make it, one just opened and have not tried it yet!! Marc you need to come to Hawaii

  • http://iamafeeder.net Jackie

    Yes, I want this now. I’m so undecided on konyaku – I’ve had it a few times and I can’t figure out if I like the texture or not! It doesn’t really taste of anything, so it’s really all about how it feels in my mouth! I like the braided effect, though – I’m not sure how it works, though. Video?

    Jax x

    • Anonymous

      Yea, I guess it’s an acquire texture. Japanese people love jellyish things
      and slimy things, two textures most western palettes don’t take well to… I
      love braiding because it has more surface area and absorbs flavor better.
      It’s simple, just cut slices, then cut a slit the long way down the middle
      without cutting all the way to the end. Then you just tuck one end through
      the slit and pull it through back to it’s original position.

  • http://www.pastrychefonline.com/ onlinepastrychef

    When I first read the post title, I thought “There goes Marc, misspelling that Norse God’s name.” Shows what I know! lol

    This is kind of like a composed stew. I like it:)

    Happy New Year, Marc!

  • http://www.dropfood.com dropfood

    Your recipe was posted.

  • http://frenchforfoodies.com/ Rachel

    Really great post- thanks for all the detail too! Just found my local Japanese Grocery store in Paris so will experiment this weekend :)

  • Wagz

    I just cooked Oden for lunch…dipped in yellow mustard paste to flare up the nostrils in flames…absolutely delicious!!! :)

  • Wagz

    Braided konyaku!!! Clever!!! :D

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  • Bunny19852

    I spent many years of my youth in okatamashi okayama and have been looking for this dish everywhere it is so good and it hits the spot when you wants something sweet and delicious yet healthy :)

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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