Super Japanese Food: Oden

I once heard oden described as ‘fish marshmallows in soup’. That doesn’t really sound appetizing but it made me smile.

Oden is a traditional winter dish in Japan, that stews vegetables and fish cakes in dashi Japanese stock. As strange as ground fish meat made into patties translated to ‘fish cakes’ sound, if you eat ramen or udon, you’ve most likely had it in some form before:

The white thing with the swirl is kamaboko (technically they're called naruto but it's essentially the same ingredients as kamaboko).
The white thing with the swirl is kamaboko (technically they’re called naruto but it’s essentially the same ingredients as kamaboko) and it’s ground fish.
Oden is usually eaten with Japanese hot mustard karashi and is Japanese comfort food at its finest. I love oden so much and since the description sounds a bit scary, I just tell people it’s ‘a Japanese delicacy’ in order to get them to try. I’ve yet to meet a single person who said they didn’t like it. It’s really, that good.

The other night I went to a very famous oden place in Ginza known only to Japanese people. The owner and operator Tanaka-san, has been cooking oden for over 50 years.

This is Tanaka-san:

IMG_1113

And boy, was it delicious.

I opted for the course, which starts with otoushi (Japanese amuse bouche). Hijiki was what was served.
I opted for the course, which starts with otoushi (Japanese amuse bouche). Hijiki was what was served.

Next up, baby squid. Slightly salty and sweet at the same time. They have wonderful textures and flavors.
Next up, firefly squid. Slightly salty and sweet at the same time. They have wonderful textures and flavors.

Boiled and salted sora mame (fava beans). It's like the fancy version of edamame ;)
Boiled and salted sora mame (fava beans). It’s like the fancy version of edamame 😉

Sashimi -- in Japanese course meals, there is almost always a small sashimi selection. We don't eat sashimi as meals...
Sashimi — in Japanese course meals, there is almost always a small sashimi selection. We don’t eat sashimi as meals…

Grilled kan-buri with miyoga (a type of ginger). Buri plays a huge role during the winter as they are in season. I've eaten buri four times in a week haha
Grilled kan-buri with miyoga (a type of ginger). Buri plays a huge role during the winter as they are in season. I’ve eaten buri four times in a week; lucky me

House made satsumaage. Satsumaage is a type of fish patty. Usually it's deep fried but this one wasn't I think. It's a touch sweet and a bit savory at the same time. The flavors are seriously out of this world. Kids LOVE satsumaage.
House made satsumaage. Satsumaage is a type of fish patty. Usually it’s deep fried but this one wasn’t I think. It’s a touch sweet and a bit savory at the same time, soft and fluffy (but not like marshmallows). The flavors are seriously out of this world. Kids LOVE satsumaage.

First bowl of oden: satsumaage with gobo (winter root vegetable), daikon radish, tofu of course, and the green thing is housemade namafu (a mixture of mochi flour and regular flour, a specialty in Kyoto). God, this was so delicious.
First bowl of oden: satsumaage with gobo (winter root vegetable), daikon radish, tofu of course, and the green thing is housemade namafu (a mixture of mochi flour and regular flour, a specialty in Kyoto). God, this was so delicious.

Up next some winter specialties: satoimo (a kind of taro) it's soft and fluffy with a slight stringy texture like okara, konbu (kelp) and tarako (cod roe). It's so rare to find roe that isn't flavored or marinated -- I really wonder where he finds this stuff.
Up next some winter specialties: satoimo (a kind of taro) it’s soft and fluffy with a slight stringy texture like okara, konbu (kelp) and tarako (cod roe; kind of like peasant caviar?). It’s so rare to find roe that isn’t flavored or marinated — I really wonder where he finds this stuff.

Finished off with dashi rice, finely chopped onions and oshinko (Japanese pickles).
Finished off with dashi rice, finely chopped onions and oshinko (Japanese pickles).
It’s so good but oden is a bit hard to try if you’re unfamiliar with Japanese foods. I want to recommend this to everyone but if you’re not with a Japanese speaker, definitely do not try to embark (lol).

I almost don’t want to share this location because I want it to stay hidden. But for any Japanese people who are reading this or people who have eaten oden before, this place is HIGHLY recommended.

Tanaka Oden 田中おでん
東京都中央区銀座3-10-15
Tabelog is here

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