Okonomiyaki

Grilled as you like it

Oden April 18, 2010

Winter is over, but the recent cold and rainy weather means it’s still a great time to enjoy oden, a long simmered mix of root and sea vegetables, eggs, tofu, and fishcakes that is sometimes referred to as Japanese comfort food. A steaming pot of oden is a great day to warm up on a cold day, so it can really get you through the winter. Another great thing about oden is that it’s even better on the second day, after all of the bits have had time to soak up the broth overnight. So you can put together the oden on a weekend when you’ve got time, park it in the fridge for a night or two, and then reheat it to enjoy it during the week.

I made oden for a party, but when you’re making oden for eight the hardest part might just be finding a pot that’s big enough to simmer all that stuff in. I made do with a two-pot arrangement where I used one pot to blanch the age-mono (fried things like fish cakes, fried tofu, and tofu pouches which need to be simmered to remove the frying oil), konnyaku, and boil the eggs and a second, broth-filled pot. When I had finished blanching ingredients and boiling eggs I split the broth into two pots and simmered all of the ingredients for about 3 hours. In fact, even with my two largest pots, there wasn’t quite enough room to fit the eggs in the pot, so I just put them into the storage containers to absorb the flavor of the broth overnight. Actually, this proved to be a stroke of luck because the eggs were flavorful but still had a nice, slightly soft orange yolk since they didn’t simmer for so long with the rest of the goodies.

So there’s about half of my party oden at the top of the page: two types of age kamaboko, konnyaku triangles, daikon, carrot-gobo kamaboko, shiitake mushrooms, thick fried tofu, hampen, boiled eggs, shirataki bundles, chikuwa, age-tofu pouches filled with mochi or egg and tied with kampyo, shrimp surimi balls, and kombu. My favorites are the carrot-gobo kamaboko, eggs, shirataki, and stuffed age-tofu pouches. Another tasty idea from Jiman no Nabe Ryori is Nagoya style oden made with the usual suspects, plus skewered beef tendon and a rich, Hatcho miso broth.

Typically oden is served with sinus-searing karashi mustard, but not being partial to such an intense burn, I also mixed up a slightly sweeter and milder mustard-miso mix to go with mine.

Oden
4 to 6 cups water
1 or 2 squares of dashi kombu
2 iriko (dried sardines)
5 grams katsuo bushi (shaved dried bonito)
2-3 tbsp shoyu
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sake
1/2 tsp salt
your choice of fillings

To make the broth, put one or two squares of kombu in the bottom of a large pot. Place iriko and katsuo bushi in a disposable teabag (available at 100-yen shops and grocery stores) and put in the pot. Add water, shoyu, mirin, sake, and salt. Heat to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add prepared fillings and simmer for at least a few hours. If you have time, store overnight and serve the next day. Serve hot with karashi mustard.

Fillings:
chikuwa
hampen
dried shiitake mushrooms
fish or shellfish surimi shaped into balls and boiled briefly
tebamoto (chicken drumettes)
beef tendon on wooden skewers
shelled, boiled eggs (I like to add these to the broth and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight rather than simmering for a long time to keep them from overcooking)
daikon, cut into thick half-circles
lotus root, cut into thick slices
carrot or gobo root peeled and cut into thick chunks
peeled potatoes (don’t simmer for too long) or sato-imo (small taro roots)
haya-ni kombu soaked in water until soft, cut into strips and tied in knots (discard the soaking water)
kamaboko (boil in water before adding to broth)
age-kamaboko or Satsuma-age (boil in water before adding to broth)
atsu-age-tofu (boil in water before adding to broth)
konnyaku or shirataki (boil in water before adding to broth)
cabbage rolls
abura-age (tofu pouches) boiled briefly, cut in half, stuffed with a chunk of mochi or a raw egg, and tied shut with kampyo ribbon

Nagoya-style broth variation (from Jiman no Nabe Ryori): 1.5 liters dashi, 350 grams Hatcho miso (about 1 1/3 cup), 200 mL mirin (about 3/4 cup), 150 grams sugar (about 3/4 cup), 300 mL sake (about 1 1/4 cup)

Laurel’s special miso-mustard condiment
*warning: this is completely non-traditional, but it tastes good*
karashi mustard
dijon mustard (whole grain or smooth)
Saikyo miso

Mix equal parts Saikyo miso and dijon mustard. Add karashi mustard to achieve your desired level of spiciness.

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