IT was just a soup but what a thing of beauty it turned out to be.
Picture provided by SPH
I got carried away while making that Japanese soup called oden, and turned out dainty cabbage rolls tied with spring onion and tiny bags of tofu puffs filled with chicken. I even tied the kelp or kombu into pretty knots to scatter about the pot!
For those who do not know, oden is a Japanese clear soup of many different items, mostly made from fishcake and tofu. You can also find that yam cake or konnayaku, Chinese cabbage, radish or daikon, hard-boiled eggs, carrots and potatoes in it.
Generally, eaten in homes and even at convenience stores around Japan during winter, all the items are simmered in a clear stock, made from bonito and kombu.
It makes for tasty, healthy eating, boiled as everything is.
Unlike steamboat, there is little preparation as most of the items can be bought at the Japanese supermarkets. Which leaves only the stock to make and if you can be bothered – the cabbage rolls, tofu parcels and kombu knots.
The many varieties in the pot offer visual and textural interest. As for the konnyaku, simmer it for a while to tenderise it, but do not omit it. It makes good eating for it absorbs all the flavours from the pot.
Oden (For 4-6)
- 5 cups of dashi stock (made from 25 g bonito flakes and 25 g dried kombu or use instant dashi powder)
- 2Tbs. sake
- 4Tbs. light soya sauce
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 100g boneless chicken meat
- 6 fried tofu puffs
- 6 leaves Chinese cabbage, scalded
- A few lengths spring onion, scalded
- 1 white radish, peeled
- 2 potatoes, peeled
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 4 hardboiled eggs, peeled
- 1 block konnyaku or yam paste jelly
- 1 cake Japanese fried tofu
- 2 kinds of Japanese fish cakes
- Yellow hot mustard
- If making dashi stock from scratch, boil dried kombu and bonito flakes with water. Strain into a large pot. Add sake, soy sauce and sugar. Leave aside.
- Fish out cooked kombu and cut into lengths long enough to tie into a knot.
- Season chicken pieces with light soya sauce and sake to taste.
- Make a slit in each tofu puff and stuff with a piece of chicken. Tie up to make a small parcel using a length of softened spring onion. Leave aside.
- Roll up scalded and softened cabbage. Secure roll with spring onion. Leave aside. All these can be done beforehand and left in the fridge till needed.
- Cut potato, radish and carrot into thick rounds. Add to the pot.
- After half an hour, add kombu knots, tofu parcels, cabbage rolls and the other items, cut into smaller pieces if necessary. Simmer the soup for at least 30 minutes more. Add the hardboiled eggs.
- Add more water, if needed, and soy sauce to taste.
- Serve with mustard on the side.