The green roll in the middle is the Konbu Maki (wrapped with Kanpyo). Also visible are the lotus root (holes in it, 12 o’clock), Shiitake Mushroom (1 o’clock), Konnyaku (that spotted brick @ 11 o’clock), Gobo just below it, Pork-stuffed Aburage (10 o’clock), bamboo shoot, carrot, taro and various fishcakes.
Oden is a one-pot Japanese stew that commonly includes fishcake, Shiitake Mushrooms, root vegetables and various other items, steeped in an earthy, delicious broth. It’s a satisfying all-in-one meal and the perfect comfort food on a cold, rainy night. My late calabash aunty introduced this dish to me a few years ago and I was hooked ever since. It’s not quite as mainstream in Hawaii as Sushi or Ramen, but it can be found at a few hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurants around town. Not to mention on aunty’s dinner table.
The variations in Japan are many, but the following recipe is how I was taught, which is probably more “localized”. This is actually a shortcut method since it uses Oden No Moto (powdered Dashi soup stock) and frozen packaged root vegetables instead of fresh. It’s a very simple and flexible dish to prepare. Throw everything in the dashi and let it steep for several hours. Add or omit items to your taste. Items such as Daikon and Shoyu-marinated Menma (Bamboo Shoots) are also good. Experiment with different fishcakes; there’s so many varieties to choose from nowadays. You can find these items at Marukai, Daiei or your favorite asian grocery store.
Clockwise from top left: Oden No Moto (powdered dashi soup base), Chikuwa fish cake, Aburage, Kanpyo (the string thing), Dried Konbu (seaweed), Konnyaku (packaging), Boiled Mixed Vegetable (packaging), Gobo Tenpura fishcake, Gobo Maki fishcake.
Serves up to 10 people.
• Oden No Moto, 2 packets (makes approx. 10 cups of broth)
• Frozen Boiled Mixed Vegetables: Taro, Lotus Root, Carrot, Bamboo Shoot, Shiitake Mushroom, Burdock), 1 one lb. package
• Fish Cake, in this version: Chikuwa, Gobo Maki & Gobo Tenpura, 1 package each, cut into bite size pieces.
• Konnyaku, 1 nine oz. package, drained and rinsed, cut into bite size pieces
• Aburage (fried soybean curd) – 1 three oz. package
• Ground Pork, approx. 3/4 lb.
• Nishime Konbu (dried seaweed), 1 four oz. package, rinsed and soak in water until soft
• Kanpyo (dried gourd strips), 1 one-and-a-half oz. package
1. Make dashi broth: Boil 10 cups of water in a large, heavy stock pot. Reduce to simmer, then stir in 2 packets Oden No Moto until fully dissolved. Let simmer on low heat.
2. Make Konbu Maki: Cut Konbu into pieces approx. 2½”x 3″. Place a small amount of ground pork on one end and roll up, then wrap and tie with strips of the Kanpyo. Add to Oden dashi pot.
3. Make Stuffed Aburage: Cut Aburage into sections. Fill each Aburage with raw ground pork. Add to Oden dashi pot.
4. Add the package of frozen mixed vegetables, various fishcake and Konnyaku to Oden pot.
5. Now all the various items are in the Oden pot. Let the Oden simmer on low heat for at least 2 hours. The longer you let it simmer, the better. At the end, adjust the flavor with a little dash of Shoyu and/or Mirin. If you like it sweeter, add more Mirin.
6. Portion each different item from the Oden pot in serving bowls and fill with broth about half-way up. Serve hot and enjoy.