Oden(おでん) is a very common stew menu to have during the wintertime. For most Japanese, it is as comforting as a cup of hot chocolate with a roasted marshmallow. Some basic ingredients in an oden stew include deep-fried tofu, fish cakes, fish ball, hard-boiled egg, daikon and more.
Oden stew is originated from a different form of tofu dish named “Tofu Dengaku”, which is a piece of grilled tofu skewer topped with sweet or spicy miso paste. Soup based oden stew was invented during the Edo period following the trend of soy sauce flavoured dishes. Snack bar owners started cooking oden stew inside a richly flavoured soy sauce soup base and triggered the boom of oden stew. This menu was quickly adopted national wide and became a popular street food in Japan. It also triggered the start of oden specialty stores and commercialized instant oden soup packets for family use.
The word “oden” was once a jargon only used within maids who work for the imperials or privileged families during earlier periods. This jargon is actually an abbreviation of the name “Tofu Dengaku”, which has the words “tofu” and “gaku” eliminated remaining with the term “den”. “O” is a phrase in the Japanese language to refer something with respect. So putting it all together “oden” is the word to refer to this dish with respect as we know that the maids are working in a royal and classy environment. Later on, as the popularity of this menu rises, it became the common terminology to refer to this recipe.
The evolution in oden has been drastic when comparing the traditional style to the present version. Oden used to be cooked in a thick ceramic pot filled with soup served hot in a small plate or bowl. Nowadays there are more options for consumers which is more convenient and dynamic. That includes one-person portion oden that can be bought at a convenience store, canned oden that can be eaten right out of the can, cold served oden made for the summer season, grilled oden with salad on the side, mochi and fruit dessert oden with oolong tea as the soup base and much more.
Oden is ranked as one of the best Japanese stews and is a popular dish within all ages. Despite the fact that all ingredients are extremely economical, the taste is definitely on point and will remain its place as one of the best comfort food for winter.