What’s that floating by the cash register of many Japanese convenience stores? Is it an aquarium? Or are they products that just couldn’t cut it even at US 7-11s? Perhaps you’re getting a sneak peek at my weekly nightmare.
Apologies if I disappoint you, for it’s just oden (おでん). You’ll likely find this dubious collection of buoys – er, food – starting in September or October depending on where you are in Japan, as it is most popular during the colder months. Oden also wields a passport and can been seen in Taiwan and the RoK as well…though depending on the year, it may not have needed a passport. No matter where you try it, it’s a cheap source of protein.
The big question: What are you? As you might have guessed, fish plays an important role, both in the stock – also known as dashi, made of kelp and katsuobushi – and as a bobbing ingredient. Eggs, a starch called konjac, tofu, and <insert meat here> also go for a swim.
You can even find your favorite oden in a vending machine. Collect all 1000.
From left to right, ganmo (がんも)- a disc of fried tofu with vegetables; gyuu suji (牛すじ)- beef tendon; tsumire (摘入/つみれ)- fish balls.
Now, we’re going to focus on one member of the oden clan: chikuwa.
Chikuwa (竹輪) is a tube-shaped fish paste cake. Maybe I had something to do with it.
Did somebody say delicious? (To be fair, I welcome all oden onto my plate.)
In any event, while studying abroad in Tokyo, I turned the tv on twice. The first time, a singer from Chiba named Jaguar belted out a few of his “greatest hits.”
The second time, this:
This fella decided that music sounded best when seafood was involved. Thus, he fashioned a flute out of chikuwa. He might spell trouble for this guy.
Stay weird, Japan. And stay weird, it does…
How does oden sound – yes, it’s also a pun – to you?