This is a fancier version of oden – Japanese fish cake stew – with a richer, heartier broth made from a combination of oxtail and dashi. Once you make this very flavorful Oxtail Oden recipe, it’s hard to go back to the simple version anymore!
Oden (おでん), or fish cake stew, is a classic home-style Japanese dish that represents comfort and affordability. It is generally served as a small dish to accompany an alcoholic beverage. Oden consists of fish cakes of various shapes and types, along with boiled eggs, daikon radish, and konnyaku (konjac).
This Oxtail Oden (テールおでん), boosted up with rich oxtail broth, is the ultimate comfort food that is best enjoyed with a chilled beer or hot sake!
Enjoy Oden at Yatai (Street Food Stall)
When we visited Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu, we had our first experience eating at food stalls called Yatai (read more about it in this post). Before then, I had only seen yatai featured in Japanese movies, dramas, and manga. So I was super excited that one of the most well-known characteristics of Fukuoka is yatai, with over 150 yatai throughout the city.
As you see in the picture above, oden is always kept simmering, ready to serve and enjoy at anytime. This humble, mostly brown dish may not look so exciting or fancy, but it is a dish that warms you on cool mornings and nights. Its also rich in nutrients and helps boost your immune system, keeping you healthy during the cold season.
Cooking Oxtail Oden in Slow Cooker vs. Pressure Cooker
After making oxtail broth using the pressure cooker mode of my Instant Pot with success, I was curious to find out if I can use the same function to make Oden since it takes lesser time. If you are not familiar, Instant Pot comes with both ‘slow cook’ mode and ‘pressure cook’ mode. To make sure I didn’t shortchange the accuracy of the results, I made the Oden in both methods (two times each) and here are the results:
Oden made in Slow Cooker
- The textures of the fish cake stay tender yet firm with a nice bounce.
- All the ingredients absorb flavors really well.
- If you are using Slow Cooker mode in an Instant Pot, you can fill the liquid and precooked food more than 2/3 for larger batch cooking (do no fill pass the MAX line).
- Requires to cook for 5-6 hours
- Need to plan ahead
Oden made in Pressure Cooker
- Cook fast, in less than 15 minutes
- The textures of the fish cakes are altered (too soft and soggy), and some even break into pieces.
- Fish cakes don’t seem to absorb enough flavor.
- Mochi in tofu pouch comes out.
- Fish cakes expanded in size when you use Pressure Cooker mode (higher temperature).
- If you are using Pressure Cooker mode in an Instant Pot, the total amount of precooked food and liquid should never pass 2/3 of the inner pot capacity, which means you have to cut down this recipe in half.
After this experience, I am convinced that oden is best to be cooked in a slow cooker for a long period of time, just like how oden has always been prepared in all the oden shops in Japan – slowly simmered in the broth over low heat.
The biggest drawback for cooking oden in a pressure cooker is how it affects the textures. When the fish cakes and the rest of ingredients turn soggy and too tender, the oden is essentially not attractive and palatable.
Even though the “short cooking time” in a pressure cooker is a strong appeal for many busy home cooks, the result is not worth it. Instead, I would suggest preparing everything on the previous night, put them in the slow cooker in the morning, and go to work. By the time you come home, the food is ready for you to enjoy!
Alternative Cooking Method – Cook Oden over Stovetop
If you don’t own an instant pot or a slow cooker, you can still prepare oden over a stovetop. You just need to place most of the ingredients in a clay pot (or a large pot) and cook covered over low heat for over 2-3 hours (or longer if you are at home). Then add in the fish cakes and mochi pouch and cook for another 30 minutes. For this cooking method, check out my regular oden recipe for reference.
I hope you enjoy making this Oxtail Oden with your instant pot or slow cooker. It is a great tool for flavorful fish cake stew that you and your family are happy to come home for.
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Oxtail Oden (Japanese Fish Cake Stew)
For Oden Ingredients
- 2-3 packages oden set (assorted Japanese fish cakes and fish balls)
- 1 block konnyaku (konjac) (9 oz, 255 g)
- 4 inch daikon radish
- 8 oz octopus (I used frozen one, defrosted)
- Oxtail Broth (homemade) (I used ½ portion of meat from oxtail broth recipe)
- 4 hard-boiled egg
For Oden Broth
- 2 ½ cup dashi (Japanese soup stock; click to learn more)
- 2 ½ cup Oxtail Broth (homemade)
- 2 Tbsp mirin
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp Japanese karashi hot mustard
- 1 Tbsp hot water
To Prepare Ingredients
- Gather all the ingredients. Please make dashi and oxtail broth ahead of time.
- Fish cakes: Boil 4 cups (1000 ml) water. Meanwhile, open the oden mix packages and place the fish cakes in the sieve. Pour boiling water all over the fish cakes to remove the excess oil. Alternatively, you can place them in boiling water for 15 seconds. If you prefer, cut the big pieces into smaller pieces.
- Konnyaku: Cut a slab of Konnyaku into 4 equal rectangles. Then cut each rectangle diagonally so now you have 8 triangle pieces.
- Then scorch the flat surfaces of konnyaku with crisscross incision. This helps konnyaku to absorb more flavors during cooking.
- In a small pot, place all the konnyaku in cold water and bring to a boil. Then cook for 1 minute and drain or using a tong to remove the pieces. Set aside.
- Daikon radish: Peel the daikon and cut into ½ to ⅔ inch (1 cm) pieces. To prepare daikon for oden properly, please follow this recipe post where we remove corners of daikon to prevent from breaking and then pre-cook it. In this recipe, I cut daikon thinner than my stovetop method so it will cook faster.
- Octopus: If you’re using frozen octopus, defrost and put each piece of octopus into skewers. If you’re using long octopus legs, you can skewer each piece (see this oden post).
To Make Oxtail Dashi Broth
- In your slow cooker (or Instant Pot), add 2 ½ cup oxtail broth, 2 ½ cup dashi, 2 tbsp mirin, and 2 tbsp soy sauce.
- Add ½ tsp kosher salt and 1 tsp sugar.
To Cook Oden
- Add daikon, oxtail meat from the oxtail broth, boiled eggs, and konnyaku.
- Then add octopus skewers, fish cakes, and mochi pouch (click here to make your own mochi pouch).
- Cover and lock the lid. Make sure the steam release handle points at “sealing” and not “venting”. Press the “Slow Cook” button to switch to the slow cooking mode. Press “+ (plus)” button to change the cooking time to 5-6 hours.
- When it is finished cooking, the Instant Pot will switch automatically to the “Keep Warm” mode. Open the lid and scoop some liquid over the fish cakes (you can also do this extra step while slow cooking).
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tsp Japanese hot karashi mustard with 1 tbsp hot water. Mix well and cover with plastic wrap. Turn it over and let it steam under the bowl for 5 minutes to release the fragrance. Unwrap the bowl and the mustard is ready to use.
- Serve the assortment of oden ingredients on a plate with some soup. Put a small dollop of karashi hot mustard on the edge of the plate. When you eat, dab the fish cakes or other foods with a tiny bit of mustard. You can drink the soup if you like, and I like to break the egg in half and let it absorbs the soup before eating.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days or in the freezer for a month. If you're freezing oden, remove konnyaku as it changes texture.