A quintessential Japanese winter dish, oden is traditionally served in a pot of light dashi and a mixture of 4-5 ingredients such as boiled eggs, fish cake and daikon. To me, it is simply the Japanese equivalent of yong tau foo and HAN has taken one step further to modernize it by serving each ingredient in individual courses, allowing the distinctive taste of each component to be highlighted in every dish.
Go all out and opt for the (comprehensive but expensive) HAN’s Oden Kaiseki ($160++) which includes an appetizer, sashimi, 7 kinds of oden, 1 grilled course, 1 fried course, a choice between udon or ochazuke and dessert. That may sound like a lot of food but at the end of my dinner, I felt comfortably full as the entire meal was generally light and clean-tasting.
With versions of oden differing according to region, HAN has chosen to serve Kansai-style oden, native to the southern-central region of Japan’s main island of Honshu. This region spans the prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Okayama and uses a light shoyu in their oden. Although Executive Chef Seiichiro Arakawa’s interpretation of oden reflects the style of cooking in Kamigata, Osaka, his version uses a white shoyu which yields an even clearer broth and sweeter taste.
According to Chef Arakawa, the best oden is guided by three principles. The first is to ensure precise seasoning so that the ingredient itself has a specific taste. The second requires the dish to be accompanied by a sauce or condiment (e.g. miso or mustard). Lastly, cooking must be used as a vehicle to bring out the natural and purest taste of each ingredient used.
I like that the oden is cooked and prepared right before the guests seated at the dining counter. Each dish is handcrafted before being placed into simmering oden pots and cooked for a precise length of time. Chef Arakawa uses seasonal ingredients from Japan and incorporates Kaiseki techniques inspired by his training at Kitcho, a Michelin star traditional Ryotei in Kyoto. His oden soup base is prepared with a blend of kelp, dried bonito, white shoyu and mirin while a selection of sauces and condiments are chosen to complement and enhance each dish.
Menu highlights include fried beancurd cake with mustard which looks and sounds simple but has multiple steps involved – Chef Arakawa presses and mashes the tofu to form a paste, combines it with ground yam, finely diced cloud ear mushrooms and carrots, forms the mixture into balls, fries them and then cooked in the broth before serving! My favourite is definitely the Hokkaido king crab leg, so naturally sweet and succulent that I was almost moved to tears! #dramamama
Before oden and for the past three years, HAN specializes in kushikatsu, i.e. skewered meat/seafood/vegetables dipped in batter and panko (breadcrumbs) and deep-fried in oil. I have never believed in frying fresh seafood but at least these were expertly fried and not oily at all!
After all the seafood dishes, the wasabi ochazuke and fresh seasonal Japanese melon/peach were a refreshing change!
P.S. Those looking for the complete oden experience can select HAN’s Oden Omakase ($120++) which includes an appetizer, 12 different types of oden (truly for the oden lovers!), 2 palate cleansers, a choice of udon or ochazuke and dessert. Alternatively, ala carte oden is available at market price.
Special thanks to Ada for hosting dinner!
HAN Cuisine of Naniwa
#01-04, Odeon Towers
331 North Bridge Road
+65 6336 2466