Oden-Japanese Fishcake Stew

My grandparents took care of all the kids when we were younger.  They’d pick us up from school and would spend the entire day with us.  They’d take us to the park and would stay there until we wanted to leave, took us walking if the weather was nice, and always made sure we didn’t go hungry.  Amongst the memories of building forts out of the dining room table with its chairs and millions of blankets so that nobody could see inside, I remember often having lots of soup.  One in particular had vegetables and roots of some sort with some kind of meat, all cooked in a sweet, clear, and mild broth. 

I went to my friend, Aya’s, house the other week.  Whenever I go over there, I’m always fed.  Aya’s always shoving some sort of baked good into my mouth and recently, it’s been her homemade ice cream.  So much for trying to go on a diet…  Whenever we go out and go back to her house, it so happens that we always walk in when her mom is in the kitchen cooking.   She’s always feeding me some sort of vegetable or fruit, and whatever she’s cooking.  This time around, it was a Japanese dish called Oden.  It’s a stew with thin mild broth ,usually cooked with daikon, multiple types of tofu, and fish cakes.  When I took the first bite, memories of my childhood, sitting around the table with grandma and grandpa, came flashing back.  The sweetness of the broth from the daikon and the actual pieces of daikon made me fall in love all over again, as this is one thing my grandmother cooked often, even to this day.  Adding pumpkin into this dish gives it a fuller depth and makes it that much more satisfying.  Also, keep the seeds so you can roast them and eat them as a snack!

Now that all the kids are grown up and our grandparents are frail and old, it’s our turn to take care of them.  We drive them to their doctor appointments, take them grocery shopping, and just keep them company once in awhile.  After all, they are a huge part of who we are today.  So grandma and grandpa, this one is for you.

Oden

Adapted from [No Recipes]

I couldn’t find all of the different types of fishcakes and tofu that were listed, so I just used what I could find.  Daikon is essential in making this stew as it sweetens the broth, otherwise it’ll just be extremely salty.

  • 4 Cups dashi (I had bought some instant dashi awhile back and some leftover chicken broth so I made mine with 1 cup of chicken broth, 3 cups of water, and ½ tsp. of dashi)
  • 2 Tbsp. Light soy sauce (not low sodium)
  • 3 Tbsp. Mirin
  • 1 medium diakon radish
  • 1 kabocha – Japanese pumpkin.  Dark green exterior, orange interior
  • 1 small pack Konyaku – the only way I can describe this is.. a gray gelatinous brick made from yam.
  • A variety of fish cakes and fried tofu
  • I used a package of fish cakes that were formed into balls
  • Atsuage – deep fried tofu.
  • Chikuwa – fish cakes in tube form
  • Soft boiled egg
  • Hot mustard (karashi)

Peel the skin of the daikon radish and slice into ½ inch rounds.  Cut and deseed the kabocha and cut into 1 inch slices.  Slice the konyaku into thin rectangles.  Heat the dashi, light soy sauce, and mirin in a pot and bring to a very low simmer.  Add the daikon, kabocha, chikuwa, and konyaku.  If the kabocha is thin, add later as it cooks fairly quickly.  Cook this under low flame and only allow it to become a light simmer.  Don’t let the liquid boil as it will break the kabocha.  Let this simmer for 30-45 minutes, depending on how long the daikon takes. 

In the meantime, put some eggs in a small pot of cold water.  Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes and turn the heat off.  Let the eggs sit in the water for a few more minutes and allow them to cool.  After they have cooled, de-shell them and set aside.  You don’t want the eggs to fully cook the yolks because they will be added into the broth where they will continue cooking.

When the daikon slices are slightly opaque, add the other fishcakes, tofu, and eggs.  The fishcakes and tofu don’t take long to cook as they only need to be reheated.

You can eat this with rice, but I like to eat it plain and soupy!  Don’t forget the hot mustard!  Just place a TINY amount on each bite.  A little goes a long way.  If you put too much, you’ll have that feeling in the back of the nose just like when you unexpectedly eat wasabi.  TRUST ME, I’ve learned my lesson.

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