A frustrating thing about being a Japanophile in the southern hemisphere is that the amazing seasonal recipes in Japanese cooking magazines and on websites like Cookpad often don’t work back home. There’s nothing like a cold buckwheat noodle or shaved ice cone on a sweltering summer day, and as much as I get nostalgic for such things, the chilly winter days here in Perth quickly convince me to reach for a bowl of hot udon noodles instead.
Fortunately there’s an abundance of delicious Japanese winter dishes. One such dish I adore is Oden, which is the simmering of various ingredients in a soy/dashi. Oden is conceptually very simple but given the huge variety of ingredients you can use, no one pot of Oden is the same. Although some items are almost de rigueur (Oden just isn’t complete without boiled egg and daikon IMHO) others may simply be personal favourites or regional specialties. Where you are in Japan will also determine how the broth is flavoured. It’s not unusual to use miso paste in the broth either since Oden broth was miso-based originally.
Once December comes around in Japan, Oden starts to make its appearance. It may be sold via a push-along cart in the suburbs or near train stations, or the local convenience store will set up a self-serve Oden warmer for those seeking a snack on the run. Apparently there are even Oden vending machines but I don’t remember seeing them when I lived in Japan. Given how easy it is to prepare Oden, I’m guessing the vending machines are for the busy working folk picking up a late dinner before the last train leaves.
For my own Oden, I used a standard light broth which contained more dashi than soy. The main function of the broth is to lightly flavour the ingredients without overpowering their own individual flavours. Oden isn’t quite complete without Japanese mustard (karashi) and happily I had procured a tube of it during a trip over east so I was all set. By the way, if anyone thought wasabi was fierce, they should cop a shot of karashi…
Somewhat odd for a foodie I know, but I currently do not own a large stock pot. I burnt my only one out last year and never replaced it. I guess I’ve never really needed another one since my Thermomix looks after soup making and the mighty slow cooker does all else. Such being the case, it was a no-brainer for me to do up Oden in my slow cooker since it doesn’t need raging hot temperatures or the depth of a typical stock pot.
I used 3 cups of broth and added some boiled eggs (I soft boiled initially since it will cook further in the Oden), konnyaku (Konjac), potatoes (I used Kipfler as they are most similar to Japanese potatoes), fish cakes, shimeji mushroom and daikon radish. I set the slow cooker on Low and ran away for a few hours, because you can when you have a slow cooker…
On my return, I was greeted with familiar smells. You can’t ignore the smell of daikon radish cooking which unfortunately for my children, is a little pungent for the uninitiated. In fact, I had to take the slow cooker out to a different room before my husband came home just in case. Fortunately, the smell didn’t really have much of a chance of lingering as I had a serve for a snack and later again for dinner. My accompaniment was a bowl of steamed rice with natto (fermented soy beans), which has it’s own unique scent but that’s another story :)