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It's all in the broth; Otafuku Oden Restaurant, Tokyo

JAPAN | Tuesday, 30 March 2010 | Views [2597]

Otafuku Restaurant - same broth bubblin' since 1945

Otafuku Restaurant - same broth bubblin' since 1945

In an earlier post I wrote about some of the more questionable things I’ve eaten in Tokyo and promised to write another post about one meal in particular… a meal that was cooked in a broth that literally has not been changed for over 6 decades.  Sounds gross?  Tastes amazing! 

Oden is a Japanese dish similar to the Chinese ‘hot pot’.  It’s soup/stew-like quality makes for excellent winter food and can be enjoyed by vegetable and meat lovers alike.  Anything from eggs, tofu and vegetables to shark meat, beef, fish balls and whale tongue can be found bubbling away in a vat of broth from which you continue to order away, dish by dish, until you’re sufficiently full and need to be wheeled home – well, that’s how full I was when Simon, Tatsuya and I visited Otafuku, an oden restaurant in Taito, Tokyo.

Sitting at the old wooden counter in Otafuku, the neon and bustle of modern Tokyo was left behind and we were transported back 80 years to the time when this restaurant was first opened.  Sipping on delicious pine-scented sake, we got talking to the oden chef behind the counter who mentioned that the reason the broth our food was cooking in was so tasty (and thus why this restaurant is so popular) is that it had not been changed since the end of the Second World War…

“The recipe hasn’t been changed, you mean?” was my obvious query to this statement… “No, the broth is the same.  They don’t make a new broth, they just add a to this one each day”, Tatsuya said, “As the broth evaporates, they add more water… it’s the different things that are always cooking that give the flavour”.  He went on to explain that each evening the broth is removed from the copper pot to be drained (and the pot cleaned – phew!). It’s then put back into the pot and covered (not refrigerated) over night and heated again the next afternoon until the end of dinner service.  The chef also explained that oden restaurants should always have wooden window and door fittings as they allow a little air in to circulate which is better for the broth.

“Well, that’s fairly gross” was all I kept thinking at the time, but then I figured that although this kind of thing certainly wouldn’t fly back home, it’s a tried and tested practice here – and I have to admit, the food was delicious AND I didn’t die from freakishly old broth induced food poisoning, so, yeah, now I’m all for eating food that is older than my parents! Woo hoo!


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