It is getting chilly every day and in the cold weather, we think of comfort food.
food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically having a high sugar or carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.
Yes, that is right, it tends to be calorific, but it doesn’t have to be.
You can name a few Japanese comfort food; Miso soup, Okonomi-yaki, noodles and Onigiri rice balls. Many Japanese comfort foods are quite healthy. There are sweets as redbean soup and roasted sweet potatoes.
For me, the ultimate comfort food is this; Oden.
Oden is a Japanese winter dish consisting of several ingredients such as boiled eggs, daikon raddish, potatoes, konnyaku yam cake, and fishcakes stewed in a light, soy-flavored dashi broth. Ingredients vary according to region and between each household. Mustard is often used as a condiment.
Oden is often sold from food carts, and most Japanese convenience stores have simmering oden pots in winter. I often cook it at home.
The cooking method is super easy. You can cook it in advance, which is convenient for some occasions.
Ingredients serves 4
1-2 strips (4cm x 10cm) Kombu sheets
1tsp Dashi granules if you have
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice wine
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp Mirin sweet wine
4 hard boiled eggs
4-6 medium sized potatoes
6 fish balls
Mooli daikon raddish
I cannot get a variety of ingredients for the pot like I used to in Japan, but I manage with whatever available in supermarkets and Asian food shops. It is a bit unconventional, but sometimes I add carrot,shallots, mini sausages and meatballs. In Japan, we cook fried bean curd, yam cakes, octopus, beef tendons etc.
You can be creative and cook pretty much anything you fancy, but the crucial ingredients are Daikon raddish and konbu sheets which give the broth distinctive flavour.
1. Prepare broth.
2. Slice daikon into 1 inch pieces and remove the skin.
3.Remove the corners so that there are no sharp edges. This will prevent daikon from breaking into pieces. I also make cross incisions on both sides so that flavour penetrates.
If you prepare rice to serve with Oden, preserve the white water from cleaning rice. Put daikon and the white water in another pot and cook, uncovered, until a skewer goes through. It is believed that the rice water gets rid of bitterness from daikon.
4. Peel potatoes and place them in the broth. Start heating the pot.
5. Add boiled eggs, daikon raddish, fish cakes and other ingredients you are using. Cover and cook 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave it for 2-3 hours.
When I don’t have fish cakes, I use crab sticks. Add them just before you serve since they get too soft and fall apart if you cook them too long.
This is our version.
I know we don’t get much selection, but daikon cooked in this way tastes utterly fantastic and the broth has deep Umami from kombu sheets. I always keep the left over broth and make vegetable soup or miso soup the following day.
Oden can be prepared a day before so that all the ingredients absorb Oden broth. It actually tastes much better the following day.
Cover and re-heat when you are ready to serve. Oden is often served with Karashi (hot mustard).
Here is my little knitted chef. Happy cooking!