Yumiko’s Oden

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In a Japanese autumn, I recall well, the steamy scent of oden permeates the flourescent-lit atmosphere of 7-11s.  The pieces of oden are kept hot floating in a large metal vat of murky liquid.  If you dare to approach the vat, and peer through the thick steam for a better look you will mostly see brown, shrivelled, wrinkly objects suspended in the pool, jostling for space with the occasional identifiable egg.  Not overly inviting, it must be said, and I was put off oden for many years due in part to this, and to my only other encounter with it… as a kyushoku (school dinner). 

Yet, as I arrived at a Japanese student’s house last night, the familiar smell wafted through from the kitchen not uninvitingly.  Home-cooked oden is something entirely different, you see.  I was thus delighted when Yumiko presented me with a portion to take home.   Oden can contain many different things, but Yumiko’s contained daikon (white radish), naruto (fish paste roll with pink swirl), chikuwa (fish paste rolls with hole in the middle), satsuma-age (deep-fried fish paste), boiled eggs, American-style sausages, ganmodoki (deep-fried tofu) and mochi (pounded rice cake).  As you can see, it’s heavy on the fish paste!  These ingredients are boiled in dashi (fish stock), soy sauce, mirin (cooking sake) with a pinch of salt.  Oden is always served with a generous dollop of karashi (Japanese mustard).  All of these ingredients are available at a good Japanese supermarket – like Atariya in West Acton. 

Tito and I decided amongst much slurping that oden is the perfect dish for a chilly evening. It’s low fat and low-calorie – and unarguably oishii.  Just don’t buy it from a 7-11.

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