Upon visiting Japan as a tourist for the first time, if you enter a 7-Eleven (or other convenience stores) in Japan, you may be surprised to see that where, in North America, you would usually see a food counter offering the likes of hot dogs or burritos, you may see large vats of bubbling liquid with beige or grey items simmering in them.
What you would be looking at is oden, or a popular Japanese comfort food (particularly during cold weather) that is just one type of nabemono, or hot-pot dish.
Oden is a one-pot dish in which ingredients such as daikon, fishcake, or eggs are boiled in dashi (soup stock).
Perhaps the most well-known type of nabemono is sukiyaki, which has been on North American restaurant menus for some time and part of its popularization comes from being immortalized in a song tile of a 1960s tune.
A lesser-known type of nabe is shabu-shabu, which is a hot-pot dish cooked at the table, in a broth that is usually saltier and less sweet than sukiyaki.
While Asian hot-pot has become increasingly available in Vancouver, oden has often been hard to find.
However, the new Guu Davie just opened up at 1239 Davie Street featuring a menu that focuses on oden and shabu-shabu.
For those interested in enjoying oden and shabu-shabu in Vancouver, here are just a few suggestions.
This stalwart izakaya, which specializes in kushi (grilled meat skewers) and small plates, describes its oden as “Japanese-style hodgepodge in seasoned fish broth”, which it offers at its 823 Denman Street and 4075 Main Street locations.
Take your pick of daikon, egg, fishcake, yam noodles, tofu, beef tendon, deep-fried fish cake, mochi chinkaku (sticky rice), or yam cake ($2.20 to $2.50 each) with extra soup for an additional $1.
854 Denman Street
Across the street from the West End Zakkushi, this recent addition to the local izakaya scene, which opened last May, has also joined in the act with quite a number of options.
Oden selections include daikon, egg, yam cake, tofu, fish cake, sticky rice, fried fish ball, goboten, or beef tendon ($2.50 to $5 per item), or you can leave it up to the chef to select five assorted items for $10.
Their spicy red nabe ($14.80) includes napa (Chinese cabbage), bean sprouts, tofu, eggplant, pork belly, chicken, and more in a miso broth infused with red pepper. Cheese risotto can be added for $5, and a spicy red nabe ramen version is also available ($16.80).
There's also barley-fed pork shabu shabu, with white leeks and udon noodles ($19.80); beef tongue shabu shabu with vegetables and ramen noodles ($24); and premium wagyu sukiyaki with vegetables, along with four appetizers, rice, and miso soup ($39).
Tucked away just off Robson Street at 832 Cardero Street, this Korean restaurant is offering a large winter oden ($37) consisting of a six-compartment tray featuring a range of items, such as boiled eggs, daikon, fishcake, deep-fried tofu pouch with glass noodles, mussels, and bok choy, all in a dried anchovy broth.
3763 West 10th Avenue
Situated between Point Grey and Kitsilano, this cozy izakaya includes Y’s Mommy’s Assorted Oden ($8.80) on its electic menu. A mix of ingredients are served in a seafood broth in this Osaka Kansai–style oden.
Ingredients can vary according to availability but may include items such as daikon, gobo-maki (burdock fishcake), sausage, hanpen fishcake, poached egg, chicken wings, takoyaki, konyaku, or chikuwa.
2340 West 4th Avenue
A sibling restaurant to Rajio, this second-floor Kitsilano dining room offers wagyu beef shabu shabu udon ($19) with herbs, greens, and sanuki udon noodles.
3190 Cambie Street
Although run by Japanese owners, this spot maintains an international outlook with its range of hot-pot selections that draw upon Thai, Korean, and Western influences.
Among the selections are sukiyaki, in a sweet soy sauce broth; and shabu-shabu, in a konbu broth. Diners select their broth and ingredients, such as vegetables, meat, or noodles, which are all cooked in pots on hot plates at the table.