A warming staple household meal in winter, oden is a traditional Japanese dish of various ingredients simmered together in a light dashi broth. Flavored with soy sauce, sake, and mirin, oden is midway between a soup and a hot pot, comforting if curious upon first encounter. Restaurants cook oden in stainless steel vessels, while home cooking often uses a wide ceramic pot. Tasty and nutritious, classic ingredients (however seemingly unidentifiable) range between fish cakes and tofu, to daikon radish as well as eggs and beef sinew, or konnyaku. Oden emerged from a dish called dengaku, tofu grilled on a stick with a dollop of miso, later added to a soy sauce broth with other ingredients as simple yet nourishing soup that eventually became oden.
Of course featuring regional varieties, Okinawa simmers local pig feet in a pork broth, Shizuoka Prefecture specializes in beef stock, while Nagoya can’t help but add miso to everything (oden included). Scoop your favorite oden pieces to-go at your local convenience store in winter, or buy it from specialty shopfronts in hidden back streets. Embrace Japan’s winter soul food in an oden experience, and join a traditional Japanese cooking class and learn how to make home-style oden; taste it from a local street cart on a food tour, or in a cozy izakaya on a bar crawl. Add a kick of mustard or chili paste, perfect on a cold day.
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