Known as one of the oldest dishes in Japan, oden is commonly served during winter. It’s a staple meal in rotation at every Japanese family's dining table when the weather starts getting chilly, and it can also be seen at convenience store checkout counters in large stainless steel vessels. A dish that reminds you of home, oden is a type of stew made with firm tofu, fish cakes, daikon radish, boiled eggs, and other ingredients simmered in a mouth-watering dashi broth. Visiting an oden restaurant in Tokyo is the perfect solution to a cold day, helping you warm up even better than a kairo pocket warmer (and unlike a kairo, it's edible!). Shelves from supermarkets and stores may change every season with new dish offerings but oden is one to stay.
Oden didn’t exist until the beginning of the 18th century. Back in its heyday, a tofu dish called miso dengaku was commonly served in eateries, consisting of skewered tofu pieces grilled on charcoal and topped with miso sauce. It became a staple dish especially during winter because once cooked, the tofu retains its heat, making it the dish to eat during cold days. With the arrival of the 18th century, eateries in Edo (which is now called Tokyo), started serving nameshi-ya, which was rice mixed with chopped greens accompanied with miso dengaku or konnyaku ("devil’s tongue jelly"). The same ingredients were then used to simmer in broth, becoming the oden that we know today.
Eventually, oden became a popular snack sold in stalls. It’s convenient for stores to sell oden because you can just keep on simmering the broth and adding new ingredients when necessary. The contents of oden usually depend on where you grew up with or what’s available in the kitchen, but ingredients such as tofu, daikon, and ganmodoki (a kind of tofu dumpling) are commonly used. While some people say that boiled potatoes are the best ingredient to put in your oden, hardboiled eggs are really essential. Add a dab of spicy mustard and your oden is ready to be consumed.
You can easily whip up a serving or two of oden in the comfort of your home but if you want to dine out and see for yourself how restaurants make their own version of oden, you can easily check out these 5 oden restaurants in Tokyo and have this comforting winter dish all year round.
Here are a few recommended oden restaurants in Tokyo to try this comforting winter dish.
Set up like an old traditional house, Konakara gives off that warm and inviting feeling of home. It’s an specialty oden restaurant in Tokyo serving original oden dishes to their guests. Among the popular oden dishes is Tori Supaisu Tsukune which has spiced chicken meatballs and Kyo-ganmo which has deep fried tofu mashed with carrots, seaweed, and a quail egg in the center. Standard oden dishes offerings are also available with its trademark tofu and daikon ingredients in simmering dashi broth, which is highly recommended if you’re not sure what oden dish to order.
Another popular oden restaurant in Tokyo is Otakou in Shinjuku. Their bestselling toumeshi dish is what makes people go back to this restaurant. It’s a special oden dish with rice simmered in delicious dashi broth and topped with a hefty serving of tofu. It might sound too simple but the taste is to die for. What’s great about this restaurant is that they’re hands-on about everything, and all ingredients are made in-house, so you’ll know that it’s freshly made. Otakou's dishes are not only popular among tourists but to locals as well because they capture the simple comfort of a heartwarming bowl of oden.
Some people don’t know that oden's perfect match is actually sake, Japanese rice wine. At Tokuichi, an izakaya offering oden (very unusal for izakaya bars), you get this delicious combination. They serve their oden Kansai-style, in a light broth with a rich flavor that is pared down when you enjoy it with crisp sake. Aside from that, they also serve their a delicious oden dish during summer, called hayashi-oden or cold oden. This is a nice place to hang out and spend some time after a hard day’s work. Order up and eat a delicious serving of oden with your sake.
Azabu Ichigo is the only Michelin-starred oden restaurant in Tokyo, and once you’ve visited the restaurant, you’ll know why. Their oden dish is prepared with its one of a kind blend of eight different broths seasoned with salt from the Noto Peninsula. You can order it a la carte or if you want something fancier, order their chef’s special omakase. They also recommend pairing it with their home-cured fish, which is carefully prepared by removing every bone in the fish. This fish is so high-quality that it could be eaten as sashimi. Azabu Ichigo is a great place to go to with a friend to eat and drink and relax.
Operating since the Meiji era, Otafuku is another popular oden restaurant in Tokyo. Its decor is complete with traditional paper lanterns and a garden you can admire. They offer almost 50 types of oden dishes consisting of unusual ingredients that you won’t see anywhere else, like shinodamaki (a mixture of vegetables, meat, and fish wrapped with a thin layer of deep fried tofu) and makiyuba (rolled tofu skin). They highly recommend pairing your oden dish with a serving of sake. There are also other dishes you can order and the choices are almost endless. It’s a family-oriented restaurant where you can spend quality time with your loved ones while enjoying this classic heartwarming winter dish.
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