One of the highlights of our stay in Japan was browsing the amazing supermarkets located within 10 minutes of our service apartment and picking up some fresh and versatile ingredients to make our own meals. You might ask: "Why would you want to cook when there are so many culinary options to choose from?" Honestly, it is easier to make our own food, especially when traveling with picky children. It so happened that the service apartment we stayed at was fully equipped with basic cooking tools and the Japanese supermarket has many pre-packaged ingredients. This made it economical and fun to cook, even after a whole day of sightseeing.

"Japanese supermarket" from License: CC BY 2.0

Our favourite dinner menu was making Oden (Japanese fish cake stew), a type of popular Japanese one-pot dish made of easily assembled ingredients like boiled eggs, turnip, tofu, konjac noodles, fishcakes in a soy-flavoured dashi broth. Oden is popular in many regions of Japan and has many different names. The ingredients used and the broth base are all slightly different in each region as well.

"Oden" from License: (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Making Oden at home is easy, and choosing your favourite toppings to go into your pot is the best part. You can even prepare it the day before and intensify the flavour by letting the ingredients soak in the broth overnight! It is a perfect dish for the icy winter.

Let's make Oden for dinner tonight!

Oden (Japanese Fish Cake Stew)

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Soak Time: 1 hour or more


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For Oden Broth

  • ▢ 8 cups water
  • ▢ 4 tsp dashi powder
  • ▢ 4 Tbsp regular soy sauce or light soy sauce
  • ▢ 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
  • ▢ 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ▢ 1 Tbsp mirin

For Oden toppings (4 servings)

  • ▢ One medium-size turnip/white radish
  • ▢ 3 medium-size carrot
  • ▢ 1/4 of a small napa cabbage
  • ▢ 4 large eggs
  • ▢ 4 oz fresh or frozen octopus (optional)
  • ▢ 1 package konjac noodles (9 oz, 255 g)
  • ▢ 1 package of Oden set (Japanese or Korean fish cake and fish balls)
  • ▢ 1 package of firm tofu


  1. Peel and cut turnip and carrots into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces.
  2. Chop napa cabbage into small pieces.
  3. Cut firm tofu into 1-inch pieces.
  4. Wash and clean baby octopus thoroughly.
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5. Place eggs in saucepan and cover them with at least 1-inch water over the top. Cover saucepan with lid and bring water to boil over high heat. Immediately remove pan from heat to stop boiling. With the lid on saucepan, let eggs stand in water for 5 minutes. Drain and run cold water before peeling the shell.

6. Put water in a large pot and bring it to a boil. Add fish cakes and fish balls in boiling water for 15-30 seconds. This extra step will get rid of the factory's deep-frying oil. Drain and set aside.

7. Use an earthenware or Dutch oven pot if you have one to make the Oden broth, but any large and deep pot will do. Add water, dashi powder and the rest of the seasonings to make the broth. Bring the broth to boil.

8. Add carrots and turnip into the broth. Cover and simmer for 30 minute. Add tofu, baby octopus, konjac noodles, green onion, and napa cabbage. Cook for another 5 min.

9. Add fish cakes and fish balls into the broth. Turn off the heat and let sit on the stove (covered) for at least 1 hour to allow the ingredients to soak up all the flavours.

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Tip: Prepare the Oden a day ahead, and when the broth cools down completely, refrigerate it until the next day. The flavour of Oden is so much better after soaking all the broth overnight.
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The Oden is ready after an hour. This dish is best served over a portable gas or electric burner while everyone sits at the table and eat from the communal hot pot in the middle. A bowl of steamed rice or udon for everyone would be perfect! If you don't have access to a portable burner, cook the Oden on the stovetop until everything is hot and bubbling. Then, bring it to the table to enjoy with your loved ones.

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