This week has been really cold in the San Francisco Bay Area and I was thinking what would be the best recipe that represents winter food in Japan. Although there are regional favorites in each area of Japan, I grew up in Tokyo area and what I came up with is Oden.
If you are familiar with Japanese drama or cartoon, you have probably seen a scene of salarymen eating Oden and drinking sake at a food stand at night with their coworkers. It has been known as a food stall dish during the night time for relaxing after a day of working. Fortunately this dish can also be enjoyed at home and we can even take out from convenience stores (e.g. Lawsons, Family Mart, 7-Eleven…etc) during the winter time. This has even spread to other Asian countries. When I was in Taiwan last month, I saw the 7-Elevens sell Oden as 關東煮.
I am not sure what’s the right translation for this recipe but Oden is a one pot dish, which is a little bit different from stew or hot pot. It’s more like simmered dish: assorted fish balls, fish cakes, atsuage (deep fried tofu), hard-boiled eggs, konnyaku and some vegetables are simmered in soy sauce based broth. I usually make Oden a day before so that all the ingredients will absorb good Oden broth and it tastes much better the following day. In my house, I usually serve with Onigiri (rice ball). The color seems boring because of mainly brown color, but the flavor is amazing and exquisite. Maybe that’s why it’s a lot of people’s winter comfort dish.
Get Your Donabe (Earthenware Pot) Ready!
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- 4 Tbsp. Usukuchi (light colored) Soy Sauce – it’s NOT low sodium soy sauce.
- 2 Tbsp. soy Sauce
- 2 Tbsp. sake
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. mirin
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 8 inch daikon
- 5 eggs
- Nishime Kombu
- 1 pkg (.037oz) Octopus Sashimi
- 1 pkg Konnyaku
- 1 chopped Tokyo negi (optional)
- 2 Nerimono (Japanese fish cakes and fish balls) Packages - see the picture below
- 1 Aburaage (fried bean curd) (or more)
- 1 mochi (or more)
- 1 inch carrot (optional) - Cut into Flower Petals
- Karashi (Japanese hot mustard) (optional)
- In a claypot, make Dashi Stock and add Seasonings.
- Slice daikon into 1 inch pieces and remove the skin (you can peel first with a peeler too).
- Remove the corners (Mentori technique) so that there are no sharp edges. This will prevent daikon from breaking into pieces.
- If you prepare rice to serve with Oden, preserve the white water from cleaning rice. Put daikon and the white water in a small pot and start cooking until a skewer goes through (do not cover the lid). In Japan we say the rice water will get rid of bitterness and bad smell from daikon and the water also makes daikon beautiful white color. Make sure to cook daikon from cold water so the center of daikon gets cooked slowly before boiling and that will help cook daikon evenly.
- Boil eggs (cook egg from water, after boiling set timer for 12 minutes, run cold water and and peel off shell).
- Cut Nishime Kombu into short pieces and quickly rinse the coating in running water. Make a knot like below.
- Cut and skewer the octopus.
- Cut konnyaku into smaller pieces. Typically triangle shape like below.
- Add the konnyaku in water and bring it to a boil. After boiling, cook for 1 minute and drain. Set aside.
- Put water in a big pot and bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add nerimono (Japanese fish cakes and fish balls) in a boiling water to get rid of excess oil from them – just for 15-30 seconds. Drain and set aside. Cut big pieces into halves. Do the second batch if nerimono didn’t fit in a pot.
- Make mochi bag. Quickly run aburaage (fried bean curd) in boiling water to remove excess oil. Drain and cut in half. Cut mochi into half. Open one side of aburaage so you can put mochi in it. Use a tooth pick or kombu to tie the aburaage so the mochi won't fall out during the cooking process.
- Put everything except for nerimono and mochi bag in a claypot and cook covered over low heat for 2-3 hours minimum. Skim off the scum and fat along the way.
- Add nerimono and mochi bag and cook for 30 minutes.
- Cover and re-heat when you are ready to serve. I usually let them soak for overnight (after cool down, keep in the fridge) and eat the next day. Oden is often served with Karashi (hot mustard).