Oden 関東煮

Oden @ Sensoji

On a visit to Tokyo’s Sensoji Temple during Hatsumode (first shrine visit of the new year), I once had this oden from one of many many food stands there. They were selling each item for a whopping 500Yen (you get to choose 5 items, making this dish of a daikon slice, 3 fish balls, a bundle of Konnyaku noodles, one wedge of black Konnyaku, an egg, and that smidgen of mustard about $25 bucks CAD.) You would of course know that at the local 24hr Family Mart, you can get the same thing 10 times cheaper, but heck, it’s one of the biggest and oldest temples in Japan during its busiest time of the year, so they have the right to rip off tourists and festival-goers alike.

Truth be told, oden (関東煮) is really a very modest Japanese one-pot hot pot easily made at home. It basically consists of a dashi broth as a base, and then pretty much whatever you want to throw into it. Typically this would be things like daikon, tofu, shitake mushrooms, eggs, konnyaku, and various surimi-based products such as fish balls, fish cakes, surimi rolls, etc. Everything is cooked in the broth for an hour or so, and then served right in the big pot it is cooked in. Oden makes for a very comforting and filling meal, and really warms you up in the winter.

You can make your own dashi, but I just use Ajinomoto’s Hon Dashi powder. I like to throw in napa cabbage because it takes care of the vegetables as well, and napa soaks up the broth nicely. In this particular oden there were also fish balls, hanpen (triangular-shaped fish cake), tofu, chikuwa (surimi tubes), kamaboko, imitation crab sticks, and crimini mushrooms. It was all cooked in a giant wok (one of the biggest in the kitchen), and it didn’t cost me 2500Yen. 😉


Whimsy Baked Tofu Jettison

There is almost always some tofu in the (Chinese) fridge, but last week there was a surplus of supermarket proportions. Packages of soft, medium, firm tofu, silken, organic, reduced fat tofu, fresh, in a box, as a tube tofu. (All except the pre-marinated, ready-to-eat kinds – I don’t buy those. Those are for the tofu-clueless. And I’m Asian, dammit.) I am guessing they were all on sale at some point and stocked up mindlessly to this point of tofu-overload. To assuage this situation (and unclutter the fridge), I decided on a whim to make a tofu appetizer before dinner. Hence my Whimsy Baked Tofu Jettison. Essentially it is miso-marinated tofu baked to a crisp. I whipped this up quickly but if you have more time it’s definitely worth taking it to create a better product. Nevertheless, these turned out just fine. They were quite chewy, though I personally prefer them to be crispier. And maybe less salty. (And I already used reduced-sodium soy sauce!)

Tofu bake

Recipe follows…
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Seafood hot pot.

Shrimp mushroom tofu hotpot

Mom’s seafood hot pot of jumbo shrimp, enoki mushrooms, napa cabbage, lettuce, in a miso broth. And hidden underneath was soft tofu and Kamaboko (Japanese steamed fish cake). Yum. Was stuffed by the end of this and having several cups of that miso broth, so nice and warm and perfect for a cold day.

This was the kamaboko, which was cut into little half moon slabs. I’m particularly fascinated with the little piece of wood that these cakes are packaged with. It’s purely for your chopping convenience, and then it gets chucked, but I kinda think it’s neat.