Oden (Japanese Fish Cake Stew) おでん

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  • A classic winter comfort dish in Japan, Oden is a one-pot dish with an assortment of fish balls, fish cakes, deep-fried tofu, hard-boiled eggs, konnyaku and some vegetables simmered in soy sauce-based dashi broth. It tastes even better the second day!

    A donabe containing fish cakes and fish balls simmered in soy sauce-based dashi broth.

    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 thought Oden (おでん) or Japanese fish cake stew would be a wonderful dish to introduce.

    What is Oden?

    Oden is a one-pot dish, which is a little bit different from stew or hot pot. It’s more like a 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.

    Although the fish cakes are mostly brown and may not look as appetizing to you, once you eat this dish, it’ll be your new winter comfort dish! In my house, I usually serve Oden with Onigiri (rice ball) after my good friend served her oden with onigiri.

    I usually make Oden a day before so that all the ingredients will absorb the delicious broth and it tastes much better the following day.

    A donabe containing fish cakes and fish balls simmered in soy sauce-based dashi broth.

    Make Oden at Home

    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 wintertime. This has even spread to other Asian countries. When I was in Taiwan last month, I saw the 7-Elevens sell Oden (關東煮).

    Get Your Donabe (Earthenware Pot) Ready!

    Donabe, Japanese Earthenware Pots on a table.

    How To Season Donabe (Earthenware Pot)

    A donabe containing fish cakes and fish balls simmered in soy sauce-based dashi broth.

    Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.

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    5 from 7 votes
    A donabe containing fish cakes and fish balls simmered in soy sauce-based dashi broth.
    Prep Time
    1 hr
    Cook Time
    3 hrs
    Total Time
    4 hrs

    A classic winter comfort dish in Japan, Oden is a one-pot dish with an assortment of fish balls, fish cakes, deep-fried tofu, hard-boiled eggs, konnyaku and some vegetables simmered in soy sauce-based dashi broth.

    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: Japanese
    Keyword: fish cake soup, nabe
    Servings: 6
    Dashi Stock:
    Oden Ingredients:
    1. In a donabe (earthenware pot), make dashi (Japanese soup stock) and add Seasonings.

      Oden 2
    2. Slice daikon into 1-inch pieces and remove the skin (you can peel first with a peeler too).

      Oden 3
    3. Remove the corners (Mentori technique) so that there are no sharp edges. This will prevent daikon from breaking into pieces.
      Oden 4
    4. 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.

      Oden 5
    5. Boil eggs (cook egg from the water, after boiling set timer for 12 minutes, run cold water and peel off shell).

    6. Cut Nishime Kombu into short pieces and quickly rinse the coating in running water. Make a knot like below.
      Oden 6
    7. Cut and skewer the octopus.
      Oden 7
    8. Cut konnyaku into smaller pieces. Typically triangle shape like below.
      Oden 8
    9. Add the konnyaku in water and bring it to a boil. After boiling, cook for 1 minute and drain. Set aside.
      Oden 9
    10. 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 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.

      Oden 10
    11. Make mochi-filled tofu bags. 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 toothpick or kombu to tie the aburaage so the mochi won't fall out during the cooking process.

      Oden 11
    12. Put everything except for Nerimono and mochi bag in the donabe and cook covered over low heat for 2-3 hours minimum. Skim off the scum and fat along the way.

      Oden 12
    13. Add Nerimono and mochi bag and cook for 30 minutes (or longer) over low heat.

      Oden 13
    14. Cover and reheat 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).

      Oden 14
    Recipe Notes

    Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

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