There are many types of autumn foods to try in Japan ranging from fish and meat to fresh veggies, but one of the most tantalising and popular dishes is definitely ‘oden’. A variety of simmered and boiled foods, oden is available everywhere from convenience stores to restaurants or even instant options from the supermarket. If you are feeling especially adventurous, try to make it from scratch. Ha! Scratch that. Just buy the instant. The ingredients are cooked in a broth of dashi and soy sauce, but soup ingredients and flavors are different depending on the area of Japan or the actual shop where you buy or eat the oden.
Here are a few staple oden options for you to try during your stay or life in the chilly winter of Japan.
I personally loathe these. I know, I know, be open minded, try everything! I like boiled eggs, I love egg salad, but I don’t find Oden eggs appealing. That being said, they are incredibly popular and very flavourful. You won’t need to worry about wet yolks either, the long cooking time of the eggs ensures they are cooked through and through.
This beast of taste is my personal favourite. Healthy, low calorie, and has lots of stray noodles and nubbins to gather up all the delicious oden sauce. It is made up of … well… that is hard to explain. The plant that is used to make them is called ‘Devil’s tongue’ or ‘elephant yam’, but just pick up a new word and understand it is made from yummy potato-like stuff. Dig in. It is healthy.
Beef Tendon (Gyu Suji)
Not something you would find on a standard menu at a fast food joint. Beef. Tendon. Sounds awful, but it is amazing. Who knew tendon could be so yummy? Tender and yummy. Get your protein in a non-conventional way, grab some tendon!
Another mysterious ingredient that is based on the above mentioned mysterious yam. It is delicious, it is chewy, and it is absolutely amazing. So give it a try, and don’t worry about what it is made of. You can find it in a lot of Japanese dishes, it’s cheap and it comes in several shapes in grocery stores.
Japanese Radish (Daikon)
Japanese radish, arguably the best oden food on the face to the earth. The goodness and purity of the radishes simmered to perfection in broth. Soft on the outside, but firm in the middle, this is the KING of oden. Please, if you have the chance, try it. But don’t forget to add some mustard. The mustard is key.
When you buy Oden to go for example at a convenience store, you will be presented with a few different sauce options to dip the delicious foods into, the same goes for shopping for oden sauce in the grocery store. Check out the sauces below.
Hot Mustard (Karashi からし）
A little spicy and much less tart than western mustard, this sauce is main staple for oden lovers. Don’t put too much on at once, though, or it may clear your sinuses the same way wasabi does.
Miso Sauce（Misotare みそたれ）
This sauce is tangy, tart, and a little bitter all at the same time. I prefer to put it directly on the oden rather than dip it in because that way this yummy sauce doesn’t get watered down.
Yuzu Pepper (Yuzugosho ゆずごしょう)
In all honesty, this is the absolute king of oden sauces. A little spicy, a little sour, and all around amazing. This is another one of those sauces that I keep in small packets in various locations that I can reach easily in case of flavor emergencies. This stuff will change your life.
Now, you have all the info you need to get your Autumn on! Eat, drink, and be merry. And remember, although there are a lot of more expensive options, convenience stores provide numerous amazing and delicious options. Grab and go!