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Oden: Japanese stew

Something funny is going on in New Zealand. Last week I had a craving for Florentines and bought all the stuff to make them. And then this week, I bought ingredients to make potato and leek soup. I opened up my friend Mel  in Wellington’s blog and what do I see? She has been making Florentines and potato soup!

The truth of the matter is that it is darn cold in New Zealand right now and we are all looking for warming comfort food. That potatoes and chocolate are on the menu is no coincidence. Probably most people default to soup in the winter and one that my partner and I crave when it is cold is oden.

Walk into any “conbini”, convenience store, in Japan in the winter and you will smell boiling vegetables and fish cakes. Had we not lived in Japan, I’m not sure we would have ever discovered this wonderful stew since it’s not the kind of thing you see in a Japanese restaurant abroad.

Of course this recipe is right up my alley because you can add whatever you like in whatever proportions you like. Some people even put chicken legs in it, but usually it’s vegetarian save for the fish cakes. The one thing that you can not leave out is the karashi, which is a Japanese mustard with a wasabi bite. If you absolutely can’t find karashi, you may use Chinese or English mustard, but not American or Dijon. The taste is very different. Also, the stock is konbu dashi, which I promise to tell you how to make someday, but until then, you can just as successfully use the little stock packets available at Japanese shops.

We usually make a big pot of oden and eat it over a couple of days and the broth just gets better and better. In fact, it’s all better on the second day when the flavours have really infiltrated each item. No bland tofu or daikon here!

Oden

Broth

7 cups of kombu dashi (kombu/kelp stock)

¾ cup of soy sauce

¼ cup mirin

The goodies

4 eggs, hard boiled and peeled

Half a daikon peeled and sliced into giant round hockey pucks about 2-3cm thick

About 6 small potatoes peeled

A handful of fishcakes in any shape you like

2 handfuls of deep fried tofu, run lightly under water to remove excess oil

1 cake of konnyaku cut into two squares and then into 8 triangles

(Other good things to add are mushrooms, carrots, konnyaku noodles or mochi bags which are difficult to find but some Japanese shops have them frozen)

Karashi

Method

Par-boil the potatoes and daikon until they are mostly cooked, then drain.

In the meantime, heat up the broth to a light simmer including all of the ingredients.

Add the fishcakes, konnyaku, tofu and eggs to the stock and let simmer for a minute or two before adding the daikon and potatoes. Everything should be just covered so, if there is not enough broth you can add some water.

Let everything simmer together until the daikon is tender and the potatoes are cooked completely but not to falling apart stage.

Serve by squeezing a dollop of karashi onto the inside of each bowl and letting each person ladle out the items as and when they are ready.

Serves four, or two for two meals.



What do you eat in the winter to keep warm?

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3 Responses to "Oden: Japanese stew"

  1. Mel says:

    Lol Marie!! Well, whatever crazy air it is that is blowing around here is a good one because florentines and leek & potato soup are excellent cures for winter blues!

    Your oden looks and sounds like a yummy blanket for the tummy, I will have to give that a try sometime soon!

  2. Well, I can testify that there are no Florentines and potato soup in our house right now. So we must not be under the same NZ spell. That said, the comfort food is out in full force here too. And after seeing this Oden recipe and feeling all ‘natsukashii’ / nostalgic for Japan, I think I’ll be making this recipe very soon. Looks fantastic.

  3. […] I’m also drooling over Shanti’s Oden post. […]

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