Oden is a kind of hot pot consisting of daikon, potatoes, eggs, Konbu (kelp), konnyaku, and different types of fish cakes, simmered in lightly flavoured soup stock. It is a typical winter dish but I cook oden most of the year, except in the really hot weather. It’s that good!
Oden is classified as nimono (煮物, simmered dish) as well as nabe ryori (鍋料理, hot pot dish). The cooking method is simmering but because of the varieties of ingredients cooked together in one pot at once, it resembles a nabe ryori too.
Oden is unique because there are so many variations to the flavour of the soup stock and ingredients by household, region and restaurant. In addition to this, it is sold at a wide range of shops and restaurants – street stalls, convenience stores, supermarkets, department stores, oden specialty restaurants, and izakaya (Japanese style tavern). And of course, it is a popular winter dish for home cooking.
Typical Oden Ingredients Are:
- Daikon (white radish): Cut into 2.5cm (1”) thick discs. If the diameter of the disc is large, say over 5cm (2”), you may need to cut the disc into two half discs. Trim off the corners of the discs to avoid the edges of the daikon getting broken when cooked. This cutting technique is called mentori (面取り) and is used for simmered vegetables.
- Boiled eggs: Boil eggs and remove shells. No need to make them hard boiled as they get cooked further.
- Konbu (kelp): Cut into thin strips of about 10cm (4”) long and make a knot. If the konbu is thick and hard, you will need to soften them by re-hydrating. You could use konbu called “nishime konbu”. These are found at Japanese grocery stores, are thinner and softer and you can knot them more easily. You might also find knotted konbu in a pack at Japanese grocery stores.
- Konnyaku: Please visit Tonjiru for more details about konnyaku. Cut into 2.5cm (1”) thick blocks, then diagonally cut each block to make triangular pieces. You could substitute konnyaku with shirataki (for more details, please visit Sukiyaki).
- Chikuwa (ちくわ or 竹輪): A log-shaped grilled fish cake with a hole in the middle. There are thick, large chikuwa that usually come in a pack of two and small, thin chikuwa, five in a pack. I usually buy short chikuwa and cut each of them diagonally into two. Large chikuwa needs to be cut into 2-3 short logs, then cut diagonally.
- Satsuma-age (さつま揚げ): Deep fried fish cakes that come in flat oblong shape, flat round shape or as balls. If each piece is large, cut it into half or quarters. I usually cut them diagonally to show more freshly cut surface area.
- Atsu-age (厚揚げ): Deep fried thick tofu. It comes in an oblong block of about 2.5cm (1”) thick. Cut it into a smaller block or triangular shape. You could substitute it for fried tofu puffs.
Other Oden Ingredients Include:
- Potatoes: Best to cook whole potatoes rather than cut potatoes so that they do not crumble when cooked. Medium size potatoes, about 6cm (2⅜”) in diameter, are best suited.
- Hanpen (はんぺん): Steamed fish paste and mountain potato. It is white, square and spongy.
- Tsumire (つみれ): Fish ball, usually made from sardines.
- Ganmodoki (がんもどき): Fried tofu mixture with finely chopped vegetables and seaweed. It is usually round.
- Gobo-maki (ごぼう巻き) or gobo-ten (ごぼう天): Deep fried fish cake stick with burdock in the centre.
- Ika-maki (いか巻) or ika-ten (いか天): Deep fried fish cake stick with squid in the centre.
- Yasai-ten (野菜天): Deep fried fish cake with mixed vegetables.
- Kinchaku (巾着): Rice cake in a bag made from aburaage (fried thin tofu).
Tokyo style oden, which I was brought up with, has no meat in it but other regions add fish or pork to it.
I usually buy 2-3 different kinds of fish cake packs for oden at Japanese grocery stores. They are sold frozen. You will find similar fish cakes sold at Asian grocery stores, too. But some of them contain garlic, which makes the oden not quite the same.
At Japanese grocery stores, you will also find a pack of assorted oden ingredients for small servings. This comes handy if you want to make a very small amount of oden. You don’t need to buy different types of fish cake packs and end up with too many fish cakes.
I have never tried the assorted oden ingredients pack as I always had to make a large quantity of oden for my family. Even now without my children living with me, I automatically make 4-6 servings of oden. I then tell my kids to come and get some, which they greatly appreciate.
My oden soup stock is made of dashi stock, soy sauce and mirin. I cook the vegetables in the soup half way first, then add other ingredients and cook until the vegetables are cooked through. If the potatoes are rather small, you will need to add them later so that they won’t crumble.
I normally leave oden for a while after turning off the heat to let the flavour penetrate the ingredients. The longer you leave it, the better it gets. When oden is left overnight, the colour of the daikon becomes light brown, semi-transparent and full of flavour. So delicious. No wonder daikon is the most popular oden ingredient among Japanese people.
Oden must be served hot with karashi (Japanese hot mustard) as a condiment.
Oden is so comforting, particularly in cold winter. It’s oden season for Aussies. And for those in the northern hemisphere, have oden before getting into summer time.
Oden is a kind of hot pot consisting of daikon, potatoes, eggs, Konbu (kelp), konnyaku, and different types of fish cakes, simmered in lightly flavoured soup stock. It is a typical winter dish but I cook oden most of the year except in the really hot weather. It’s that good!
- 400g daikon (white radish)
- 6 medium size potatoes, peeled (note 1)
- 6 boiled eggs, shell removed (half boiled is OK)
- 6 strips of 2cm x 10cm dried konbu (kelp) (note 2)
- 1 block of konnyaku
- 1 pack of 5 small chikuwa (item 4 in the fish cake photo in blog)
- 1 pack of ball shaped satsuma-age (item 1 in the fish cake photo in blog)
- 1 pack of flat satsuma-age (item 3 in the fish cake photo in blog, note 3)
- 1 pack of 3 ganmodoki (item 5 in the fish cake photo in blog)
- 1 pack of gobo-maki (item 2 in the fish cake photo in blog)
- 1500ml (50.1oz) dashi stock (note 4)
- 45ml soy sauce
- 45ml mirin
- 30ml sake
Peel daikon skin, then cut into 2.5cm (1”) discs. Trim the corners of the discs so that the edges are not sharp. This will prevent the daikon edges from getting broken when cooked.
Re-hydrate konbu to soften. Then tie a knot in the middle of each konbu.
Cut konnnyaku into 5 pieces crosswise, then cut each piece diagonally, making triangular shapes.
Place each chikuwa stick horizontally and cut it diagonally with about 30 degrees in the centre. Please see the ingredients photo in the blog.
Unpack two kinds of satsuma-age, ganmodoki and gobo-maki and place them in a colander. Pour boiled water over them ensuring that every piece is covered with hot water. This will remove excess oil and oily smells from them.
If flat satsuma-age is large, cut into 2 or 4 depending on the size. I usually cut them diagonally to show more of the inside. Please see the ingredients photo in the blog.
Ganmodoki is usually in a large round shape. I cut it into half.
Add all the Oden Soup Stock ingredients into a large pot (note 5). Add daikon, potatoes (note 1) and konnyaku to the pot. Place a lid on and cook over high heat to bring it to a boil.
Reduce the heat to simmer and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients to the pot, grouping each ingredient together, and continue to cook for further 10-15 minutes until daikon and potatoes are cooked through.
Turn the heat off. If you have time, leave for 1-2 hours during which the flavour of the oden will penetrate the ingredients, particularly the daikon.
Reheat before serving if left for 1-2 hours. Serve hot with hot mustard.
1. My potatoes are about 6cm in diameter. You can use larger potatoes but you will then need to cut into half and trim off the edges to make them rounder. This will reduce the sharp edges of the potatoes from crumbling when cooked.
If very small potatoes are to be used, add them to the soup much later than the daikon as they will be cooked much faster.
2. If you have left over konbu sheets from making dashi stock, you can use them.
You might find a pack called “nishime konbu” at Japanese grocery stores which are thinner and softer konbu for easier knotting.
You could also buy knotted konbu in a pack at Japanese grocery stores.
3. My flat, round satsuma-age came with 3 large pieces in a pack. You might find smaller round/oval shaped ones or oblong shaped ones (usually five in a pack). You might also find one large satsuma-age in a pack. Any size and shape is OK.
4. Please visit Home Style Japanese Dashi Stock.
5. You will need a rather large pot with sufficient room above the ingredients because the fish cakes will expand while being cooked.