Cooking Japanese: Oden
Oden is a hearty Japanese stew that is cooked over several days and commonly served during cold winter months. It’s pretty easy to make and most ingredients can be found online or in Japanese supermarkets. It’s got a wonderful, savory flavor and contains an odd melange of ingredients like yam, taro, fish cake, hard boiled eggs, and mushrooms. Even though those food combinations might seem odd to Westerners, oden is a delicious dish that should be tried.
There are many variations of oden. Some recipes call for cooking the soup over the course of a few days and other recipes say to do it for a few hours. There are many variations on the ingredients, the most popular ones being:
Hard boiled eggs
Chikuwabu – gluten tubes. Popular in Kantō, virtually unknown elsewhere.
Suji – beef tendons
Kabocha – Japanese squash
Tsukune – fish or meat balls
Tebichi – pig trotters
Ganmodoki – fried balls of tofu mixed with grated vegetables
Atsuage – deep fried tofu
Tofu – mainly in Kansai, usually seared
Bakudan – boiled egg wrapped in surimi
Chikuwa – thick tubes of surimi
Gobomaki – boiled gobo (greater burdock root) wrapped in surimi
Ikamaki – squid wrapped in surimi
Shinjoage – fried seafood paste
You don’t necessarily use all of the above ingredients. You can choose the ones that sound good to you, or are easiest to find.
To make oden:
First, make 4 cups of dashi.
1/3 daikon radish
4 boiled eggs
1 blocks of konnyaku
2 blocks of fried tofu (ganmodoki or atsuage)
2-4 fish cakes
4-5 tbsps of soy sauce
1 tsp of sugar
2 tbsps of sake (Japanese rice wine)
Cut daikon into thick rounds. Cut potatoes in half. Peel boiled eggs. Cut other ingredients into large pieces. Add the dashi to a large pot or donabe pot. Add ingredients into the pot. Add sake, soy sauce, and sugar in the pot. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 40-60 minutes. The longer you cook oden, the better the taste. Add more dashi soup stock and soy sauce as needed.
Oden is usually served in a ceramic lidded pot called donabe. Oden is often served with karashi, which is a Japanese hot mustard. A dab of mustard is added to each bite.