Brrr! It’s a cold winter’s night, or even day, and you’re looking for something that will warm you from within. Sushi‘s not going to the trick, nor is something fried like karaage chicken. No, this kind of weather calls for oden, a simple, satisfying, and warming dish popular all across Japan. Grab a hot sake and think about which goodies you want from the simmering cauldron of satisfaction, because there’s lot to choose from and you’re only going to have so much stomach space.
Oden is defined by what is cooked in the broth, and what the broth is made of in the first place. What goes in is a straightforward discussion. Common goodies include plain tofu, chikuwa (fish paste rolls), konnyaku (“konjac” in English), konbu, fried tofu, daikon (Japanese radish), and whole, pre-cooked eggs. These foods are all simmered for at least thirty minutes, but sometimes considerably longer. They are then doled out on demand, served on a plate with a smidgen of hot mustard on the side.
The broth is where the discussion gets interesting. In the Tokyo area, they like to keep it straight forward but strongly flavored, using soy sauce, rice wine, katsuobishi, and konbu. In the Nagoya area, they may start with a similar broth, but then they like to dip the items in some sweet red miso. Now as for the people in the Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe) area, well they like their broth less salty and just generally milder, with a greater focus on the katsuobushi than the soy sauce. Naturally, each region thinks their soup base is the best!
Whichever broth your boiled veggies (and sometimes meats too) come out of, one thing is for certain: Tender, flavorful, warming foods are the only thing that come out of Oden’s very friendly simmering cauldrons.
Looking to try oden in Tokyo?
Japan Gourmetpedia recommends using our sister site, Tokyo Dinner Ticket, to find the perfect restaurant.