Warm­ing up with oden

A steam­ing bowl of oden takes the chill off win­ter.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - Sarah Mori

WHY do you like oden so much?” I asked my Malaysian friend who lives in Ja­pan. “A sub­sti­tute for yong tau foo,” she replied.

Like her, I crave Malaysian food, too. So I un­der­stood what she thought of oden, al­though I don’t fancy it as much as she does. Both oden and yong tau foo have some­thing in com­mon – most of the in­gre­di­ents are made from fish paste.

Oden is a Ja­panese-style hotch­potch com­pris­ing as­sorted pro­cessed fish cakes, boiled eggs, kon­nyaku (kon­jac), sliced radish, konbu (kelp) and gan­modoki (deep fried tofu frit­ters) which are stewed to­gether in a light, soy-flavoured dashi (fish stock).

Oden is usu­ally served with karashi (Ja­panese mus­tard) in the Kanto re­gion, but I like to eat it with hoisin sauce (a sub­sti­tute for sweet bean sauce) and chilly sauce. It makes me feel as if I am eat­ing yong tau foo.

I wouldn’t take oden in the sul­try sum­mer. It is a pop­u­lar win­ter dish. Oden comes to the res­cue when I want a quick, hot meal on a frosty day.

You can buy steam­ing hot oden from food carts. And in win­ter, many con­ve­nience stores of­fer them, too. Oden is also avail­able at oden-ya (shops that serve oden with al­co­holic drinks and small sea­sonal side dishes). In places like Ak­iba­hara and Tsukuba, some vend­ing ma­chines dis­pense canned oden. In­side each can is a wooden skewer for serv­ing the con­tents. For home­made oden, you can get packed oden sets from the su­per­mar­kets.

Most of the main in­gre­di­ents are store-bought be­cause they are time­con­sum­ing to make from scratch. Cook­ing oden is easy as the store­bought oden sets gen­er­ally come with a small packet of con­cen­trated dashi and a piece of cooked konbu (tied in a dec­o­ra­tive knot). Just boil the stock with some wa­ter to make the soup. For an oden set that comes with ready-cooked soup, all you need is to microwave it.

The com­mon in­gre­di­ents of oden are pro­cessed fish balls and fish cakes which are steamed, grilled or deep-fried. Ready-made oden sets of­ten in­clude mochi kin­chaku (deep fried soya bean curd pouches filled with gluti­nous rice cakes).

Oden is a ver­sa­tile dish. You can as­sem­ble your own oden in­gre­di­ents with in­di­vid­ual items and use the ready-made stock or make your own stock. You can also sup­ple­ment the packed oden set with more in­gre­di­ents or some other in­gre­di­ents. These in­gre­di­ents are sold in pack­ets at the re­frig­er­ated food sec- tion in stores.

Quenelle and var­i­ous kinds of fish balls and fish cakes are my favourite in­gre­di­ents. Some people would add in car­rots, pota­toes, shi­itake, oc­to­pus, shi­rataki (kon­jac noo­dles) and even sausages.

Like most people, I al­ways add hard-boiled eggs (one for each per­son) into oden. To save time, I wash the eggs and boil them with sliced radish in a big pot. Then I re­move the cooked eggs to peel off the shells and re­turn them to the pot to sim­mer with the radish and oden set. While it is sim­mer­ing, I would pre­pare a side dish of green veg­eta­bles to go with it.

The in­gre­di­ents, soup stock and condi­ments for oden vary ac­cord­ing to re­gion and house­hold. I was sur­prised when my Ja­panese friend from Ka­gawa pre­fec­ture in Shikoku told me that back home she would put cooked beef ten­dons into oden and eat oden with sweet miso sauce.

Con­versely, she was as­tounded when she first saw chikuwabu sell­ing at stores in Yoko­hama and Tokyo. She had never used this op­tional in­gre­di­ent in oden be­fore.

I once mis­took chikuwabu for chikuwa since both are tube-shaped and have quite sim­i­lar names. How­ever, chikuwabu is made from wheat flour whereas chikuwa uses fish paste. I mis­tak­enly bought chikuwabu to sup­ple­ment my oden set. Well, imag­ine my as­ton­ish­ment when I chewed on a slice of chikuwabu. Why, it tasted noth­ing like chikuwa at all! It was sim­ply a plain flour dumpling. Some Ja­panese might like it, but no thanks for me!

Re­cently, we have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing cold snaps. On one frigid day, while the rest of us ladies ate cold home-made obento (boxed lunch) af­ter our prayer meet­ing in church, a friend had a cup of pip­ing hot oden. She had bought it from a con­ve­nience store on her way back to church af­ter send­ing a church mem­ber home. Oh, how we drooled over her oden dur­ing lunch!

Sarah Mori, a Malaysian mar­ried to a Ja­panese, re­sides in Ja­pan.

Com­fort food: oden is a pop­u­lar hot­pot in win­ter.

Take your pick of oden in­gre­di­ents sold at a con­ve­nience store in win­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.