Oden is a Japanese single “hotpot” dish, whose ingredients may include atsuage, peeled whole boiled eggs, carrots, daikon radish, Kamaboko fish cakes (such as chikuwa), konnyaku chunks, and potatoes. All the ingredients are cut-up bite sized (except for eggs.)
They are simmered for hours in a large cermaic pot in a dashi stock that has sake, sugar and soy sauce added to it. The dish ends up with contrasting textures and subtle flavours.
The quality of the dashi stock is very important. Kansai-style Oden uses a dashi made from kombu seaweed, shiitake mushrooms and usukuchi soy sauce. Kanto-style Oden uses a darker dashi with more soy sauce in it.
It can be made in homes, or ordered in restaurants. At home, you fish the ingredients out yourself with chopsticks. When eating out, you indicate the items you want out of the hotpot, and they are served to you. It is also sold as a street food from stands with stools (yatai.)
To eat the ingredients, you dip them in something first. Karashi mustard is usual, but in Nagoya, miso is a popular dipping sauce.
It is made in winter.
Oden started off as tofu dunked in miso sauce, and grilled on skewers over coals. It was given the name “o-dengaku”, later shortened to “oden.”
Later, it became chunks of konnyaku, taro and tofu on skewers that were simmered in a broth. Then, later, the use of skewers was abandoned and the ingredients were just plopped in.
Oden originated in the Kanto area, so is sometimes called “Kanto ni” or “Kanto daki.”