Dec. 04, 2019 UPDATE
Kyoto Oden Guide 2019 – From Classics to the Unconventional
Part 1

Japanese Oden — A Motley of Flavors!

In the first part of our oden feature, we will be focusing on the ingredients and different recipes used to make this unique Japanese food. We’ll also cover various regional differences and see what sets oden in Kyoto apart from the rest of the country.
What is oden?
Oden is one variety of Japan’s nabe or hot pot style of cooking. Oden is typically made up of various ingredients left to simmer for hours in a light soup broth made from bonito flakes and kombu kelp to soak up the flavors of the broth. Popular ingredients include boiled eggs, Japanese daikon radish, konjac, and fish paste based foods such as fish balls, hanpen, a triangular fish cake, and chikuwa, a round fish cake.
While oden usually contains a number of ingredients, the most popular ones in Japan are boiled eggs, daikon and konjac.

As a side note, the den part of oden is said to have come from the miso-glazed grilled tofu known as dengaku. Eventually, these grilled pieces of tofu came to be boiled instead and took the name oden.

Also, as oden originated in Edo, modern-day Tokyo, in the Kanto region, it's sometimes referred to as kanto-daki in Kyoto and the surrounding Kansai region.
Regional oden
Now a national soul food, the flavor and ingredients of oden often differ from region to region. Below we have compiled a list of particularly unique and interesting oden. For those interested in learning more about Kyoto oden, jump to the end of the list.
Shizuoka Prefecture oden
Shizuoka Prefecture oden
Oden from Shizuoka Prefecture is known as kuro-oden, or black oden. Why’s it black? That’s because the broth, which is continually reused and replenished, is made from beef tendons, pork offal and dark soy sauce, turning it a dark, nearly black color.

Famous ingredients in Shizuoka oden are kuro-hanpen, which are dark-colored, calcium packed fish cakes made from whole sardines and horse mackerel, bones and all. Apparently, oden in Shizuoka is also eaten with seaweed and fishmeal.
Aichi Prefecture oden
Aichi Prefecture oden
The oden of Aichi Prefecture and Nagoya City is known as miso oden. This oden uses Aichi Prefecture’s famous dark miso, haccho miso, as the base of its broth.

While it may not look it, miso oden is characterized by its surprising lack of saltiness. As this oden opts for adding miso straight into the broth rather than the traditional method of adding it as a seasoning, the ingredients soak up the flavor of the miso and taste fantastic.

Miso oden’s most notable ingredient is taro. The flavors of the miso are meant to go really well with the slightly sweet and crumbly taro.
Ishikawa Prefecture oden
Ishikawa Prefecture oden
The oden of Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture is known as kaisenkei-oden, seafood oden.
The oden is known for featuring Japanese Babylon sea snails and kani-men, pieces of crab and crab eggs stuffed into the shell of a crab in a seafood umami-packed broth – truly a seafood lover’s dream.

In addition to these, there are also other unique Kanazawa oden only ingredients such as steamed fish cakes known as fukashi and fish cakes with beautiful red and white spiral patterns known as akamaki.

In Kanazawa, oden has apparently become an everyday food, with many izakaya pubs specializing in oden and normal restaurants offering it on their menu. Most likely, as a direct result of this, Kanazawa consumes the most oden out of anywhere in Japan.
Kyoto Prefecture Oden
Kyoto Prefecture Oden
Last but not least, Kyoto oden. I’m sure by now you’re wondering how in the world oden in Kyoto could be any different from all the others?

Kyoto’s oden uses a light soy sauce base and is slightly sweet.
With less input from the soy sauce, the oden in Kyoto tastes strongly of the bonito flake, mackerel flake and kombu kelp based broth.

When whaling was a larger part of the local culture, oden in Kyoto used to contain such ingredients as whale tongue and blubber. Nowadays, more common ingredients include filhos – deep-fried tofu with sliced carrot, burdock, and cloud ear mushrooms stuck together with mountain yam and egg – and octopus. In addition, other traditionally Kyoto ingredients such as yuba tofu skin and Kyoto vegetables such as Horikawa River burdock and Shōgo-in Temple daikon radishes are also popular.
In this first part of our feature on oden, we covered what exactly is this uniquely Japanese dish. We also saw what some regional differences, specialties were and how they differ from Kyoto oden. In the next part, we’ll fill you in on some of Kyoto’s best and most delicious oden shops!
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