Someone Pour Me a Drink: Tonight We’re Eating Oden!

Oden - Kanon 2006 03 - 02Oden has been popping up in a lot of anime as of late, so I decided it would be a great time to share with you a recipe for this fishcake-laden nabe dish! Lightly flavored in a soy sauce and dashi broth, oden typically contains a wide variety of items, usually a mix of fishcakes, tofu, konnyku, daikon, and other meats. All these ingredients are simmered and stewed together, allowing their flavors to permeate each other. The result is a wonderfully satisfying meal with a complex taste that is perfect for warming up on a winter’s day – especially when paired with a bottle of sake or beer!

In anime, oden is enjoyed in many series including Kanon (2006) and Koufuku Graffiti, where it’s shown being eaten communally at the dinner table with friends and family. In Shirobako, this dish is showcased as a type of street food that is sold in carts and that, like in Akame ga Kill!, is perfect for accompanying a night of hard drinking.

About the recipe:

Oden - Shirobako 24Like most nabe-type dishes, this recipe for oden can be tailored to suit both your personal tastes and the number of people being served. Please keep in mind that there are lots of different ways to prepare oden, and the recipe I provide in this post is more of an example of a possible oden meal rather than an absolute.

Just to give you an idea of how much this dish can vary depending on the ingredients, here’s a list of some of the common items found in oden:

  • Oden - Koufuku Graffiti 09 - 03Konnyaku
  • Atsuage (fried tofu)
  • Hard boiled eggs, peeled
  • Potatoes
  • Cabbage rolls
  • Kinchaku (tofu pouch filled with mochi and other ingredients)
  • Fishcakes:
    • Chikuwa
    • Satsuma-age
    • Kamaboko
    • Gobomaki (burdock root wrapped in fish paste)
  • Meat and fish:
    • Beef tendons
    • Octopus
    • Tsukune (fish or chicken meatballs)
    • Chicken thighs
  • Vegetables:
    • Fresh shiitake mushrooms
    • Daikon
    • Carrot
    • Kabocha

Oden and sake - Akame ga Kill 19So, that’s a lot of ingredients, but of course you don’t have to use them all… just pick and choose the ones you like! If you’re having trouble figuring it all out, I suggest picking up or looking at an “oden set” (typically found in the frozen food section of larger Asian grocery stores such as H-Mart or Mitsuwa) for a little inspiration. Oden sets contain a variety of fishcakes and tofu products preselected for you so that you don’t have to buy a bunch of individual items. It’s easy and convenient, though the quality might not be as high as buying it all separately. That said, it’s a great place to start!

Overall, oden is pretty simple to make, though it does require a little bit of prep work (not too much since a lot of the items are pre-made/store bought). While Oden - Shirobako 22 - 01this type of nabe is generally cooked in a clay nabe pot when made at home, you can use any low rimmed pot that is only about 4 inches deep with a good amount of surface area.

The height of the pot you use is important especially if you plan to serve the meal at the table placed on a tabletop burner to keep it warm. In this case, try not to use a very deep pot because the tall rim will obstruct your view of the pot’s contents while sitting at the table, making reaching for the cooked food difficult. If you’re not serving it at the table, any large pot with a good amount of surface area will do.

About the ingredients:

Konyaku oden - Koufuku Graffiti 09Konnyaku is a hard, jelly-like product made from devil’s tongue yam (also called konjac yam or elephant yam). It comes in the shape of a dark, rectangular block. Konnyaku doesn’t taste like much on its own, but will take on the flavour of whatever sauce it is placed into. It also has an interesting texture. To use, cut into pieces and boil briefly to get rid of its smell. Konnyaku can be bought in most Asian stores.

Atsuage is tofu that has been deep fried. It has a golden brown skin on the outside, which tends to soak up sauces nicely. This tofu product can be bought in most Asian stores.

Oden kinchaku - Koufuku Graffiti 09 - 02Kinchaku is a tofu pouch (called abur-aage in Japanese) filled with mochi and other ingredients, and tied at the top with a piece of kanpyo (a type of gourd that is dried in long strips).

Satsuma-age is a flat, round fishcake made of fish paste mixed with a variety of vegetables that has been deep fried. The vegetables it contains varies, but common ones include carrot, burdock root, onion, and green onion. Satsuma-age can be bought in most Asian stores, and is commonly found frozen.

Kamaboko is a fishcake that is steamed in a semi-circle loaf shape. It can be plain white or with a bright pink border along the curved edge. It’s usually found sliced thin in noodles (such as udon), or eaten at room temperature in a bento.

Chikuwa is a tubular-shaped fishcake that has been deep fried. It is often cut in half on a diagonal. It comes in many sizes and can be bought in most Asian stores (often frozen).

Oden 02Oden 01

The recipe:

Oden

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

For the soy sauce dashi broth:

  • 7 cups dashi stock
  • 1 large piece of konbu
  • 4 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp sake
  • 1 tbsp sugar

For the pot:

  • 1 block konnyaku
  • 1 block of atsuage (fried tofu)
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled
  • 2 small yellow potatoes
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 negi (Japanese green onion) or 4-6 green onions
  • 4 chicken thighs, cut in half
  • 1 daikon
  • Kinchaku (tofu pouch filled with mochi and other ingredients)
  • Your choice of fishcakes (try using an oden set):
    • Chikuwa
    • Satsuma-age
    • Kamaboko
    • Gobomaki (burdock root wrapped in fish paste)

Directions:

1. Prepare the ingredients for the pot in the following manner:

Konnyaku: Remove from package, drain and cut into triangles. Lightly score the pieces of konnyaku with a crisscross pattern. Bring a small pot of water to boil. Add the konnyaku and boil for 30 – 60 seconds to remove the smell. Remove from water and set aside.

Atsuage (fried tofu): Bring a fresh pot of water to boil (do not use the water the konnyaku was boiled in). Add the tofu and boil for 30 – 60 seconds to remove the excess oil. Remove from water, drain on paper towels. Cut into triangles or 1.5 – 2 inch cubes and set aside.

Potatoes: Scrub clean and cut in half lengthwise. Soak in cold water until ready to use.

Carrot: Peel and slice at a diagonal into 1/8 inch thick pieces.

Negi: Wash and cut the white parts at a diagonal into 1/4 inch pieces. If using green onion, slice both the white and green parts.

Chicken thighs: Wash in cold water, pat dry, and cut in half crosswise. Remove excess fat as desired.

Daikon: Peel and cut into 1 – 1.5 inch rounds. Using a knife or vegetable peeler, round the edges of the daikon pieces to prevent it from breaking up in the oden broth. Place the daikon into a pot of cold water (if possible, use the cloudy water produced by washing rice) and simmer until soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from water and set aside.

Deep fried fishcakes and tofu products (kinchaku, chikuwa, satsuma-age, etc.): Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add the fishcakes (in stages if necessary) and boil for 30 – 60 seconds to remove the excess oil. Remove from water, and drain on paper towels. Cut chikuwa in half with a diagonal cut. Cut satsuma-age (and any other large fishcakes) in half or quarters (about 1.5 – 2 inch pieces), if it is very large. Set aside until later use.

2. In a large pot, combine all the broth ingredients, mixing well to combine. Add daikon, chicken, egg, and konnyaku, and bring to a gentle simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally as the flavor of the broth soaks into the ingredients, about 30 minutes.

3. Add remaining items and cook, turning ingredients over in the broth occasionally to ensure even cooking. Do not stir too vigorously in order to prevent the potato and other items from breaking apart. Gently simmer until the chicken and the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.

For the best results and flavor, let sit (either covered off heat or kept warm on low) for 2 – 3 hours, or overnight in the fridge. Gently reheat when ready to serve.

Serve by removing desired items from the pot and placing into a small bowl, along with a small amount of broth. Eat with rice and karashi (a type of mustard). Pairs well with sake or beer. If serving at the table on a tabletop burner, turn down the heat to low to keep the remaining items in the pot warm.

Source: Adapted from CookpadJust One Cookbook, and Cooking with Dog.

Oden - Kanon 2006 03 - 03

 

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