Kitchen Culture

tasty tidbits from the old-fashioned Japanese Kitchen



Japan's iconic dish, ODEN, is a slow-simmered, hodgepodge: fish sausages, daikon radishes, octopus, potatoes, boiled eggs, konnyaku (a broth-absorbing, speckled aspic processed from a tuber vegetable), and all sorts of tōfu.
On the first chilly nights of autumn, oden is welcomed back to pub-like izakaya menus, konbini store counters, and family dinner tables after its summer “vacation.” And, once sleet-slick winter starts in earnest sharing oden with friends and family (with, or without, a beer or saké) becomes a happy evening routine throughout Japan.

miso dengaku


Modern-day oden traces its roots to the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) and a dish called DENGAKU in which skewered tōfu, slathered with a sweet and spicy miso paste, was broiled. The word oden, written with calligraphy for "tilled field" and "enjoyment" hints as its origins in ancient harvest celebrations called dengaku. These festivals featured dancing and the skewered food looked a bit like robe-clad, dancing figures. Although tōfu dengaku continues to be enjoyed today (with the recipe for it essentially unchanged through the intervening centuries), the word ODEN (honorific prefix "o" + "tilled field") used to describe skewered foods that were simmered in broth first appeared in the 19th century.