Oden—Nerimono: Ready-to-eat Japanese food

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One of the most delicious winter meals is oden: a one-pot stew (nambemono) made with nerimono—all sorts of fish-cakes (kamaboko). Surimi of all shapes and sizes are found in freezers in Japanese and Korean stores during the cold months. It’s a great deal of fun choosing interesting looking fish cakes, just because you like the way they look. But this means that you buy a great deal more food for your meal than you can easily eat in one evening. Yes, you can keep some of the fish-cakes frozen for another meal. But a very convenient way to have oden is to buy a package of assorted fishcakes. These packages usually include a packet of concentratee broth.
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The pre-selected packages of fish-cakes for oden offer a selection of 6 to 9 different nerimono, ready in only minutes. I’d advise that if you can plan ahead, boiling a couple of eggs, a couple of potatoes, and some slices of daikon so that you have more variety of textures and flavors. Also, many of these fish cakes are salty and many are fried.
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Below are pictures and descriptions of some of the fish-cakes we have used to make oden over the past year or so. Oden 1. and Oden 2.
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Hanpen Hanpen Hanpen hanpen cooking
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Hanpen: simmered or boiled fish cake. Ingredients: Pollack, water, egg white, potato starch, sugar, salt, rice wine, and some chemical stabilizers. This is a soft and fluffy snow white cake of puréed fish mixed with grated mountain yam (in this case: potato starch) and whipped to add air bubbles. The mixture is placed in a shallow square mold and simmered. From my book: “Biting into hanpen is like biting into a soft meringue.
It can be eaten in soups, broiled or simmered in stock. The package notes that it is ready to add to your salad.
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Satsuma Age Satsuma Age Japanese Fish Cake Japanese Fish Cake
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Satsuma-age: fried fish cakes, the size of ping-pong balls, or “Kushi Tenpura Fried Fish Balls”
Ingredients: Pollack, water, modified food starch, sugar, salt, sorbital, soy bean oil, sweet rice wine, dextrose, natural and artificial flavorings (inclucding bonito and MSG and other things)
The package says, “Ready to Eat!” but one should dip in boiling water to remove the excess oil from frying first. They are probably better warmed up. Maybe some mustard and shoyu as condiments.
Iwashi Tsumire (Fried Fish Cake??—these do not look fried, so perhaps I was supposed to fry them???)
Ingredients: sardine, codfish starch(?!?), leek, carrot, sugar, soybean paste, MSG, potato starch.
Not sure if these are “ready to eat” or not. Note: there is a recipe in my study book to make these!!!
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chikuwa_8949 chikuwa_8978 chikuwa_8982
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Chikua, is nicknamed bamboo ring. Ground fish paste is formed on a bamboo stick, then broiled. The bamboo stick is removed and the result is a longish fish cake with a hole in the middle. Ingredients: fish meat, starch, egg white, sugar, salt, msg, clucose, mirin, calcium carbonate, potassium sorbate as a preservative.
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shrimp-balls_9017 shrimp-balls_8940 ika-maki_8944 squid-fish-cakes_9014
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Shrimp Ball (from Taiwan) contains itoyori surimi (nemipterus virgatus, sugar, sorbitol, sodium tripolyphhosphate), shrimp, potato starch, wheat starch, egg white, salt, monosodium glutamate, garlic, natural color (carmine, paprika) The instructions note that the shrimp balls can be breaded and deep fried, sautéd in oil, or boiled in soup. They were a bit too delicate for oden: they lost their lovely pink color. Kagosei Ika Maki contains fish meat (codfish, squid), potato starch, starch syrup (?!!), vegetable protein, soy bean oil, canola oil, fermented seasoning (rice, sugar, salt, salt, sugar, glucose, monosodium glutamate, and water. Product of Japan: Odawara, Kanagwa Pref.
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fish-cake_8936 fish-vegetable-cakes_8995 octopus-fishcake_8948 octopus-oden_8988
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Sankaku Ganmo Ichimasa br (Frozen Fish Cake) from Japan, contains fish meat (atka mackerel, sugar) water, bean curd, rapeseed and corn oil, tapioca starch, carrot, sugar, soy protein, sorbitol, salt, sodium acetate, …list of chemicals…, msg, sesame seed, calcium carbonate, wheat starch, egg whites, brown algae, … Fried Fish Cake “Tako Bei” ingedients: fish meat (codfish) water, cabbage, otcopus, squid, ginger,potato starch, starch syrup, salt vegetable protein, soy bean oil, sugar, fermented seasoning (rice, sugar, salt), glucose ,msg. Product of Japan: Odawara, Kanagwa Pref.
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konnyaku_4593 konnyaku_4595 konnyaku_4599 konnyaku_4604
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Konnyaku was traditionally made from raw ground up konjac corms. Kannyaku taro grows on well-drained slopes in high mountain where there is lots of rain and great temperature variation between night and day. When the plant is about three years old, it bears a large purple trumpet flower (devil’s tongue). When the roots are dug up, they average about six inches in diameter and average five pounds each. The roots are cleaned, peeled, sliced, dried, and ground to a powder. The powder is combined with water and the coagulating agent hydrated calcium (limewater). The set gelatin is cooked in boiling water and cooled. The cakes are grey. Modern automation produces white cakes, which are sometimes colored with hijiki or arame sea vegetable. Sometimes flavor additives like powdered nori or yuzu rind are also added.
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konyaku-bundles_8963 konyaku-bundles_8960 konyaku-bundles_8977 konyaku-bundles_9032
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These are konyaku noodle bundles; they look so cute. These noodles are sometimes called yam noodles, but are made from a plant called devil’s tongue just like the blocks of konyaku discussed above. The texture is sort of rubbery, with lots of fiber, very few calories, and not much flavor. When cooked in broth they absorbs the flavor readily. There are sometimes also called shiritaki (“white waterfall”). Tofu shirataki is made with tofu and konyaku and have a few more calories and some protein.
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kamaboko_8957 kamaboko_9002 kamaboko_9007
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Kamaboko 蒲鉾 is a type of cured surimi product, similar to ‘krab sticks’ found in grocery stores across the U.S. The fake crab is known as kani-kamaboko in Japan. English names for kamaboko are fish paste, fish loaf, fish cake, and fish sausage. Jewish gefilte fish could be considered somewhat similar.
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6 thoughts on “Oden—Nerimono: Ready-to-eat Japanese food

  1. Tess! You’re on a roll! I love Korean Gyoza! I make wonton soup out of it too. Oden rocks! The first time that had it in Japan was at the Kabukiza Theater in the Ginza; there’s an oden stand inside. And where I lived in Tokyo, this guy would actually set up his “cart” or “truck” in the evening. I remember one particular evening coming home from work late; it was raining, and the little place was glowing away happily. I’ve told you that I’m a huge Nabe fan, but I’ve actually only made Oden once. But I see the ready-made packages all the time because I use some of the ingredients in other Nabes. Potatoes, hard boiled eggs and daikon “chuncks” are a must. Karashi mustard to go along with it is a must as well. And while I’m rambling, a long time ago, I went on a tour of a Kamaboko factory in Japan. I can’t decide upon your Oden #1 or #2! They say it’s gonna rain here in LA later this week. Another Nabe party? Too much fun! Thank you again Tess!

  2. Karla,
    Yes, I like gyoza in soups too. And pot-stickers fried just enough to re-heat them. My daughter’s friend was from China, and her mother would send some boiled dumplings over to me. I don’t know, she may have used them in soup?? But they would be cold by the time dot got home with them, so I’d just fry them a little in oil and dip them in a little soy sauce /rice vinegar mix.
    Your memory of eating oden for the first time, ah! It evokes memories of some of my first-times, and how pleasurable they were. Well said: a place glowing happily…
    My thoughts about oden vs other nabe: I think oden is not the very most healthy, low salt, vegetable rich, low calorie sort of one-pot meat. But golly: tasty and easy and fun to eat.
    My most favorite nabe (well, difficult to choose) must be https://1tess.wordpress.com/2008/12/22/neginma-nabe-tuna-and-leek-hot-pot/
    So amazing!
    I have to chuckle that because it will rain in LA you feel a nabe party coming on. Here, rain would be a sign that spring is on it’s way. Beats 3 to 7 inches of snow. No question.
    Accept my best to you!

  3. Hi Tess, yup, I know that I sound like I true LA wimp. I admit to it! I moved to the East Coast for a very lucrative job years back, and shivered back home to my palm trees after only two years. Tokyo’s weather, although identical to Boston’s, was doable BECAUSE it was Japan! I’d do it again in a heartbeat! Shungiku is my absolute favorite ingredient in any Nabe! I can’t wait to try this! The simplicity is also extremely appealing. (I can get carried away)! Thank you so much for all you do!

  4. My mom used to say that the winter cold here in southeast Michigan felt colder than winter in the U.P. (where I grew up) because up there it was a dry cold. To me there is cold, and then there is cold, and 32°F is more endurable than -10°F!

    If you do the tuna nabe, try to get Japanese onions. Leeks are okay, but to me the taste is just not right!

    • Hi Tess, Isn’t it great that unlike 10 years ago, we can get the “real thing” in actual Japanese Markets these days? There’s a smallish Mitsuwa about 10 minutes from where I live. If I want, Little Tokyo is about 25 minutes away in Downtown LA. Nananegi are fantastic! They are milder than green onions, and have so much more flavor than leeks. Like I said, to me, Shungiku is NOT interchangeable for Spinach. Buts that’s just my preference. I’d rather not do a recipe than to sacrifice on the real flavor. Your Son must have been a giggle when they asked him to empty out his pockets at the airport security screening checkpoint, and he whips out the Onigiri!

      • Karla,
        (Mr.Tess (J.) is my husband. Confusing because I call him both in this blog…)

        One year, I had to return from Florida before Mr. Tess, and it was winter and I really wanted to stay in the Sunshine state, and we would miss each other. He wanted to give me a gift, but all he could find was a can of sardines, which I put into my carry-on. I’ll tell ya, security was was baffled by the rectangle-ish metal object in my bag. Once my bag was unpacked they thought it was hilarious.

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