Oden is difficult to avoid in Japan during the colder months, sold from food carts and convenience stores; you often detect the warm, nourishing aroma on the breeze before you notice the huge vat of slowly steaming dashi in front of you, with its bobbing islands of fishcakes and vegetables. A cheap way of getting protein into you, oden carts are a popular pit stop for salarymen before making their way back home, spicing up the myriad selection of nerimono fish pastes with a dab of sinus-clearingly hot karashi mustard. You are free to pick your favourite items from the assortment on offer, scooping them into a bowl before having a helping of the sweet, fishy broth ladled over the top.
Oden is a great family style meal to place in the middle of the table and let everyone tuck in. It always feels like a special dish, bountiful and overflowing with good things, and while it isn’t traditionally a celebration dish, we like to view it as such. The selection of ingredients in your oden can be changed quite readily depending on what’s available, just make sure you have a wide range of textures, flavours and shapes.