Oden – wholesome winter food

Oden is a typical winter dish from Japan. It consists of several ingredients like daikon, tofu, konnyaku, eggs, etc., stewed in a light, soy-flavoured broth. One of the many wonderful things about oden is that it is so cheap. Each piece of oden costs between 75 and 100 yen (between 0,5 and 0,7 euro). It is also healthy, delicious, and it really warms you up in winter.

Oden japanese winter food
A display of oden, where you can clearly see the different ingredients. I admit it is not much to look at, but I assure you that it is delicious. At first I was a bit suspicious of oden myself but after I gave it a try, I was hooked! The daikon in the lower left corner is my favourite.

As the cold months set in, you see oden stands pop up in convenience stores all over Japan. When you want to buy some oden, you are supposed to serve yourself: just take a few pieces with the pincers provided by the store and put them in a cup. You may add some broth if you like. Then you tell or show the convenience store cashier what you took.

oden stand in Japanese convenience store
An oden stand in Japanese convenience store. In the background on the right, in the ‘hot snack’ display, you see ‘man‘, which is another kind of delicious Japanese winter food.

I discovered this self-service system only after having asked the poor employee from the convenience store around the corner from our house to serve me some oden on several occasions. Being as polite as any Japanese would be, and possibly also a little frightened of that bossy, tall foreigner, the employee dutifully served me every time. Until I saw someone else serve themselves and I realised how it actually worked. Embarrassing! But things like that are also very much part of life in Japan.

Oden illustrates two things that I love about Japan:

  • It is so easy to get healthy and cheap fast food in Japan.
  • I love how the Japanese celebrate the seasons with seasonal food. Here in Belgium, we can pretty much get any kind of food all year long. But the seasonal food in Japan really gives you something to look forward to. I also seemed to enjoy the food more because it was only available for a limited amount of time.

9 thoughts on “Oden – wholesome winter food

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  1. i LOVE oden. the many lawson shops here in jakarta also offer oden. unfortunately, it’s not a popular item. jakarta is way too hot all year long for the people to appreciate oden. i often try to order some when visiting a japanese restaurant. such a comfort food.

  2. Oden is so popular that I believe 7-11 started selling it all year round. I never used to like it so much though my mother used to make it quite often because my father liked it, as I got older I came to appreciate it more. I think it’s because it goes well with nihonshu. ^^

    1. Haha!!! You sure know how to appreciate the good things in life 🙂 I’ve never tried it with nihonshu. Do you know if oden is difficult to make? It might be fun to give it a try, and break out some nihonshu as well ^_^

      1. I don’t think so though I wouldn’t know as I’ve never made it myself. It’s about getting your dashi right which can differ from region to region. I have seen oden soup that looks horrendously dark which would put people coming from anywhere west of Kyoto off but oden is sometimes called Kantodaki or Kantoni so maybe it’s the way it’s supposed to be. I remember when my mother cooked it there was a piece of dried kelp in the soup (or water to start off?) in the casserole at the table.

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