Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Oden

Oden is... well, I liken it to a cross between a soup and a stew. I don't entirely know how to describe it with one all encompassing word! Even wikipedia calls it a "Japanese winter dish". It was always my favourite winter lunchtime meal when I was getting school lunches in Japan. Daikon, potatoes, hard boiled eggs and various fish products get simmered for hours on end until they're infused with gorgeous soy-mirin-dashi goodness.

The conbinis (convenience stores) even have big pots of them simmering away, where we'd probably have a old hot dogs dripping oil onto metal rollers. It's a big thing.

I haven't had it since winter 2006. I remember being in that freezing cold school, heated only by kerosene heaters, with the hood of my Roots sweatshirt pulled up tight around me. One inhalation of that broth - one taste of that meltingly infused daikon - I could feel the cold melting out of my body.

I've been talking about making it for years now. In fact, when we were last in Hawaii, I picked up a package of oden broth seasoning. But, I haven't touched it as I'm:

a) lazy and prone to talking big
b) afraid of purchasing processed fish products, because I wouldn't use them for any other purchase

and

c) not usually in possession of 4 hours on a weekend to dedicate towards the dish

Today, after a trip to the P.A.T. and some encouragement from my husband, I decided it was time to tackle the dish.

Some things just shouldn't remain locked away in your memory.



If you're not familiar with Japanese cooking, you're probably going to be weirded out by a few of these ingredients. I promise you though, the whole thing is delicious and totally worth any initial hesitation.


Now, the assorted fishy things are pretty much all processed pollock.


If you can't find any/are totally turned off by the thought of this stuff, just leave it out! One of the joys of oden is you only have to put in what you want to eat.

Oden

(adapted from The Japanese Kitchen)

Ingredients

Broth:
5 cups dashi (for vegetarian version)
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
½ tbsp sugar

Add ins:
enough peeled hard boiled eggs to serve the number of eaters present
½ block konnyaku, rinsed with boiling water
4 fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
1 small daikon, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into chunks
various fish products

Directions

1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add potatoes and daikon. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Place all broth ingredients together in a large pot. Bring to a boil.


3. Add in all your other ingredients, including potatoes and daikon. Simmer with the lid partially on for 3 hours, topping up with water if the level drops below half of the original starting point.

4. Serve piping hot.

So remember how I said that my absolute favourite part of this dish is the daikon?

Check out what happens to it:

before cooking
and...

 after 3 hours of simmering

It turns from solid white to this translucent brown. That how you KNOW you're in for a treat and that it has absorbed all that brothy deliciousness. That's happiness in a bowl, right there.

2 comments:

Keith said...

Man, after reading your post, I wish loved oden! I can't seem to get into it. I've tried it a few times, at the 7 11, and at a few people's houses, but something just doesn't sit right...

Alyson said...

I know, it's kind of an acquired taste... it's weird though, when you get back, you have a whole new appreciation for the food you had over there.

Like... what I would do for some kare udon! Or that massively thick white bread.

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