Oden

I’m not sure what the exact definition of oden is but what I do know is that I like to eat it. 😀

The apparent definition is anything thrown into the oden pot and sometimes that seems like practically everything.  Depending on the place you and fine all of the following: beef, fish, tofu, squid, octopus, hot dogs, potatoes, seaweed, chicken, dumplings, eggs, radish and I’m sure that’s not the end of it.

The picture above is from an oden cart I saw when I was out taking night pictures of cherry blossoms last April.  You can find oden all over the place.  Most festivals seems to have oden.  Most of the ramen carts seem to have oden.  There are oden restaurants and many combini have it too.

You can see above that it’s a bunch of food sitting in a broth.  The broth is steaming hot and and the food absorbs the flavor.

The 7/11 by my apartment has oden and I probably get it once or twice a month.  I guess traditionally it’s thought of as an autumn dish but they serve it year round.  Figuring out the names if this stuff is not so easy so if you happen to know I have a name wrong please send me an e-mail.

Hanpen

I’m told it’s made from from fish and yams.  That’s kind of hard to believe so maybe I have it wrong.  It’s very very light like someone solidified foam.

Ganmodoki

This is tofu mixed with chopped veggies and fried then set in the oden pot to soak up the flavors

Here’s the inside of the ganmodoki.  You can see the bits of vegetables. 

Satsuma age

Fried fish cakes.  This stuff is GOOD.  Separate from oden this is often sold after it’s been fried with mayo at festivals and road stands.

Daikon

Daikon is called a radish but American radishes are spicy.  Daikon is not.  It’s used more like a potato since it does not have alot of flavor on it’s own.  They are HUGE.  One daikon is bigger than my arm.

Tsumire

A fish meatball.  It’s good.  Trust me.

Wiener maki

A hot dog wrapped in satsuma and fried then put in the oden pot.

I wonder when that started doing this.

Here’s another collection of oden from a different day.

To be honest I always get too much but it’s so good and so hard to choose which ones I want that I just have to get alot of them.

Tsukune

These are chicken meatballs.  Usually they are served at a yakitori place but after you cook’em you stick’em in the oden pot and they become oden.

Naruto

The piece in the left is naruto.  It tastes like chikuwabu but the shape is different and it’s got a pink spiral going through the center.

On the right is ganmodoki.  They sell lots of small collections like that.  3 items to a stick. 

Gyuusuji

This is beef.  Like the tsukune above this was originally something sold at a yakitori place but has been dropped in the oden pot to become oden.

Hanpen

This is hanpen again.  This time it was in a round shape instead of a triangle.

Here are a few more common ones I eat.

Yaki Chikuwa

I think this is made from squid but I’m not sure.  If it is though it doesn’t feel like it because the squid has been ground into a fine paste and then remolded into this shape and then deep fried and added to the oden pot.

Chikuwabu

Chikuwabu is just the Japanese version of a dumpling.  Same ingredients, same flavor, different shape. 

Konnyaku

Konnyaku is called the "devils tongue".  It looks funny and if feels a little funny too.  Like tough jello but not chewy.  It’s another item that has no strong flavor but rather absorbs the flavor of the soup.

This is an oden cart.  You see them here and there although it’s more common to see oden as part of a ramen stand.  There’s something cool about eating it at a cart vs a restaurant.  Kind of like having a hot dog at a hot dog stand.

You don’t need to know the names of the items you can just point and the owner will put them in a small plate with some soup and you can chow down.

I recommend you give oden a try.  I’m sure some of the things sound a little iffy if you’ve never eaten them before but try them in the following order and it should be easy.

Some things are really simple. The beef or the tsukune (chicken meatballs) are no different from stuff you’ve already eaten.

Next try chikuwabu because really, it tastes almost exactly like a dumpling from chicken and dumpling soup.  Make sure you say chikuwaBU and not just chikuwa.

After that the hanpen is also easy since the texture is not that different from stuff you are used to.  The daikon is also easy since it is just a radish.  If you like tofu (or even if you don’t) try the ganmodoki.  It should also be no problem.

You’re next step should be the satsuma age or the chikuwa.  Both will have a slightly different texture than what you are probably used to.  They are both delicious though.

And finally, at least from the stuff above, try the konnyaku.  It’s probably the most different from anything you’ve eaten before.

In no time you’ll be craving oden just like me. 😉

  • anon_BB

    your website was great it really helped me with a Japanese school project. I was really lost you are a lifesaver.

    P.s. you are a great photographer!

    from B.B

  • anon_cin
    Price?

    Hi 🙂

    Just wondering, how much does it cost to eat at one of those carts?  Do they charge by item?  Where can I find them?

    Thanks!

  • oden carts

    Mostly I see them at festivals but there are carts all over or if not carts at least Yatai (food stands).  For example there are usually 2 or 3 in Shinjuku in front of the Kabukicho area.  But, I don’t know if I could recommend those.

    I’m pretty sure many of the restaurants over on Omoideyokochou have Oden and there are plenty of izakaya that have an oden set.

    Finally you can just go to pretty much any 7/11 and get some.  Of course I’m sure some people will tell you that getting some at 7/11 is bad but personally I like it.  I’ve had much worse and not much better.  Generally each piece is around 100 yen, at least at 7/11.  They have it at nicer restaurants too where I’m sure it’s more expensive.

  • Japanese food –

    I lived in Tokyo for three years about a decade ago.

    Man that food looks good.  I could go for some!

  • anonEmily
    Puree’d fish

    Hanpen is actually puree’d and steamed fish. This is a great site, and it’s been very interesting to read. Thanks

  • CatSienna

    yummmeee!

    those pictures are so good! it reminds me of the chinese version called yong tau foo which I like a lot but tends to have less robust flavours and is more tofu based.

    Ate oden recently at one of the more imaginative Japanese restaurants here in Singapore. Thanks for telling me what that grey rubbery stuff was : konnyaku!

  • Suse
    zowie

    Just rec’d this link. Great! Now I am really hungry! Suse

  • Michelle
    So that’s what I was eating

    I went to Japan a year ago and stayed with a friend and her mom. Her sister came over and we bought a ton of food from the super market, ready to eat. One thing I remember eating was “large gray things” and “tofu” balls, but I LOVED it. So this is what I was eating? Thank god for this page : D

  • sgtoca

    love oden..especially the squid balls

  • buttnugette

    oden  celt god of death

  • I knew what Oden was !!!

    Hi !  Gregggman ~

     I enjoyed your explanation about Oden and finally I knew what I was eating !!!   Do me a favor?  Would you open my webpage in order to make me famous like you?  Thank you!!!   mirai 

  • Chrisvactioninginjapanagain
    Oden page

    Hi Gregg,

    I recently bought fresh daikon to cook, but tried some raw, it’s spicy just like american radishes! I was surprised by that since I’m used to eating it in soup and like you said it seems like a potato. But after eating it raw, it’s definitely a spicy radish (and a bitter one at that!).

    Chris