Known for being one of the oldest dishes in Japan, Oden is commonly seen being made and served during winter. It’s always the center of attraction on every Japanese family’s table and is mostly seen placed in stainless steel warmers at checkout counters in certain restaurants and convenience stores. A dish that reminds you of home, it’s a stew made of firm tofu, fish cakes, daikon (radish), boiled eggs, and other ingredients simmered in mouth-watering dashi broth. It’s the perfect companion for cold days, helping you warm up. Shelves from supermarkets and stores may change every season with new dish offerings but Oden is one to stay.
Oden didn’t exist until the beginning of the 18th century. Back in its heyday, a tofu dish called miso dengaku was commonly served in eateries, consisting of skewered tofu pieces grilled on charcoal and topped with miso sauce. It became a staple dish especially during winter because once cooked, the tofu retains its heat, making it the dish to eat during cold days. When the 18th century came, eateries in Edo (which is now called Tokyo), started serving nameshi-ya, which was rice mixed with chopped greens accompanied with miso dengaku or konnyaku (devil’s tongue jelly). The same ingredients were then used to simmer in broth, becoming the Oden that we know today. Eventually, Oden became a popular snack sold in stalls. It’s convenient for people to sell Oden because you can just keep on simmering the broth and adding new ingredients when necessary. The contents of Oden usually depend on where you grew up with or what’s available in the kitchen but ingredients such as tofu, daikon, and ganmodoki (a kind of tofu dumpling) are commonly used. While some people say that boiled potatoes are the best one to put in your Oden, hardboiled eggs are actually essential. Add a dab of spicy mustard and your Oden is ready to consume.
You can easily whip up a serving or two of Oden at the comforts of your home but if you want to dine out and see for yourself how restaurants make their own version of Oden, you can easily check out these restaurants and get your tummy warmed up all year round.
With a set up of an old traditional house, Konakara (1-9-6 Yushima, Bunkyo, Tokyo) gives off that warm and inviting feeling of home. It’s an Oden specialty restaurant serving original Oden dishes to their guests. Among the popular Oden dishes is Tori Supaisu Tsukune which has spiced chicken meatballs and Kyo-ganmo which has deep fried tofu mashed with carrots, seaweed, and has a quail egg in the center. Standard Oden dishes offerings are also available with its trademark tofu and daikon ingredients in simmering dashi broth, which is highly recommended if you’re not sure what Oden dish to order.
Another popular Oden restaurant is Otakou (3-20-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo). Their bestselling toumeshi dish is what makes people go back to this restaurant. It’s a special Oden dish with rice simmered in delicious dashi broth and topped with a hefty serving of tofu. It might sound too simple but its taste is to die for. What’s great about this restaurant is that they’re hands on to everything and all ingredients are made in-house so you’ll know that it’s freshly made right off the kitchen. Their dishes are not only popular among tourists but to locals as well because it captures the simplicity of what a bowl of Oden can do to keep you warm.
What other people don’t know is how Oden is perfectly paired with sake (rice wine) in hand, and in Tokuichi (1-14-4 Nishishinjuku Shinjuku Tokyo), you get exactly that. It’s an izakaya bar that offers Oden in their menu, which is unusual for izakaya bars. They serve their Oden Kansai-style which has an almost light clear broth with a rich flavor that cuts through once you’ve down it with sake. Aside from that, they also serve their a delicious Oden dish during summer which is called Hayashi-Oden or cold Oden. This is a nice place to hang out and spend some time after a hard day’s work. Order up and eat a delicious serving of Oden with your sake.
Azabu Ichigo (2-5-14 Azabujuban Minato Tokyo) is the only Michelin-starred Oden restaurant in Tokyo and once you’ve visited the restaurant, you’ll know why. Their Oden dish is prepared with its one of a kind blend of eight different broth seasoned with salt from the Noto Peninsula. You can order it a la carte or if you want something fancier, order their chef’s set menu (omakase). They also recommend pairing it with their home-cured fish which is carefully prepared by removing every bone in the fish. It’s quite good enough to be made as sashimi. It’s a great place to go to with a friend and just eat and drink.
Operating since the Meiji era, Otafuku (111-0033 Tokyo, Taitō, Hanakawado, 1 Chome−2−6) is another popular Oden restaurant. Its setting is complete with traditional paper lanterns and a garden you can admire. They offer almost 50 types of Oden dishes which consist of unusual ingredients that you won’t see anywhere else like shinodamaki (a mixture of vegetables, meat, and fish wrapped with a thin layer of deep fried tofu) or makiyuba (rolled tofu skin). They highly recommend pairing your Oden dish with a serving of sake. There are also other dishes you can order and the choices are almost endless. It’s a family-oriented restaurant where you can spend quality time with your loved ones.
She’s cooking and baking for her family and friends. She finds grocery shopping therapeutic, always takes the longest time in the Asian section and debates with herself whether she needs that extra pack of instant ramen. A lover of sweets, she dreams of owning a patisserie and publishing her book but most of the time, she’s just really thinking of what to eat for breakfast the next day.