Oden（おでん）is a traditional Japanese winter food consisting of several ingredients stewed in a light, soy-flavoured dashi soup. It is similar to a Western style stew or hot pot with all the ingredients simmered in one pot. Yes, we are still in China but I haven’t suddenly started blogging some random foreign food. This food is served here in China too, in most of the good convenience stores, as well as from mobile food carts. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the few foreigners that actually loves this stuff, and as with many foods I enjoy it but Justin doesn’t. It was while living in South Korea that oden started to grow on me, but here in China I seem to eat it much more often. Perhaps because, in my opinion, there are far fewer tasty street food choices here. South Korean street food was irresistible!
Walking into a convenience store in winter, you are immediately hit with the smell of oden. It is warm and comforting for some, and to others it is the smell of culture shock! You then grab a large paper cup, and pick whatever skewers you want to buy. They are pretty cheap – roughly ranging from 1-3 yuan per stick, depending on the ingredients you choose. To keep the skewers warm, and of course, to enjoy the taste of the broth, you can ladle some of it into your cup before you pay for it all. It really is easy to buy, and requires no knowledge of the local language. Of course – you need to be okay trying out new things because each store has slightly different variations of meats and seafoods. By now I am able to recognise the ones that I prefer.
One of my favourites – a fish ball
Below are some of the most common ingredients, you will find these and many more at local 7-11 convenience stores throughout Asia (well, at least Japan and China for sure). There is a variety of vegetables with eggs, tofu, fish cakes or fish balls and sliced pork. In Japan oden is served with Japanese mustard as a condiment to add flavour. Being a mustard-fan, this sounds really tasty to me, but here in China there is no such mustard anywhere to be seen.
Asian winter comfort food
On cold nights in winter, street food like this is amazing because it is kept piping hot so the broth warms you up while filling your belly with some deliciousness. There are tons of stands like this, so those passing by can easily stop, enjoy some fishcakes, seaweed, or skewered meat, and then drink the remaining broth.
Although I have been enjoying Oden here in China, I really miss Korean street food… Especially tteokbokki (a popular Korean snack food made from soft rice cake, fish cake and sweet red chill sauce) with cheese melted over the top of it. Hmmm, so tasty!