Japan’s Kanto region in the east vs Kansai region in the west have had a longstanding rivalry that you may have heard about. From dialect to food, each area has its own special spin on Japanese daily life–including a favorite Japanese dish: oden.
Do you know oden? It’s a type of hotpot dish with a soy-flavored dashi broth and various ingredients you can choose from: boiled eggs, chikuwa (fishcakes), daikon, and so on.
Even if you start with the same basic ingredients and yet the flavors and look can be completely different depending on where you grab the dish. For example, an American California sushi roll is quite different from a Japanese maki sushi roll, even if the same ingredients are used!
◇Same dish but different taste?!
With Kanto and Kansai’s rivalry, it comes as no surprise that the food can vary depending on the region. Even cup noodles may have region specific flavors marked as with an E or 東 (East) for eastern Japan and W or 西 (West) for western Japan.
Oden is the same: depending on the east or west you can have a completely different dish by the same name!
In Kanto, the base uses dried bonito and a strong soy sauce to make a rich flavored broth while Kansai may simmer the broth in soy sauce. But that’s not the only difference!
◇East vs West: Oden
Oden is said to have originated in Kanto–however, in Kansai the Kanto style oden may be referred to as “Kanto Taki” instead!
Dashi is the most basic ingredient in oden: the soup stock.
– Kanto –
The dashi is made from using a dark soy sauce to give it a rich flavor and a color. In fact, the broth itself may be nearly opaque!
– Kansai –
A lighter soy sauce is used and gives the dish a lighter feeling. Ask anyone in Kansai, the thick sauce used in the Kanto region is unheard of–especially since you won’t be able to see the ingredients inside.
You don’t want just the broth though: what’s inside?!
– Kanto –
Daikon radish, boiled egg, chikuwabu (wheat based food item, shaped like a tube), konjac, hanpen (pounded fish cake), beef tendon, mochikinchaku (pounded rice cake inside a fried tofu pouch), etc.
– Kansai –
Daikon radish, boiled egg, konjac, skewered beef, fried chicken, potatoes, mochikinchaku, etc.
For daikon radishes and boiled eggs you can find them just about anywhere you go for oden. However, the chikuwabu and fishcakes used in Kanto’s oden is almost never seen in Kansai. Chikuwabu is made from flour, water, and salt to form the cake–and is apparently very popular in the Kanto region for oden!
When it comes to meat Kanto uses fish while in Kansai it’s just gotta be beef!
★Why is chikuwabu so popular in kanto?
It can soak up the strong broth and take its flavor–making it super delicious.
Since Kansai’s broth is lighter, the chikuwabu doesn’t soak up the flavor as well.
◇Convenience Store Oden
It doesn’t matter where you are: oden is sold at convenience stores and is a great treat to warm yourself up in the cold winter.
But, as you can imagine, depending on the region the flavors may vary!
1) Hokkaido – dried sardines base
2) Touhoku & Shinetsu Area – dried sardines base
3) Kanto – Original
4) Toukai – brownstriped mackerel scad base
5) Kansai & Hokuriku Area – Kombu (kelp) base
6) Chugoku & Shikoku – dried sardines base
7) Kyushu – flying fish, shiitake mushrooms, chicken and/or beef base
Just as the bases are varied, the ingredients inside change based on where you go!
◇Dark & Light Soy Sauce
By looking at the dark soy sauce, you’d imagine it packs more punch, right??
In fact, it’s the light soy sauce that has a higher salt content!
In Kansai’s Kyoto cuisine the look of the food is just as important, so lighter soy sauce is used more often in cooking.
Just because it’s lighter in color, doesn’t make it lighter in flavor!!
But since Kanto’s oden broth is simmered slowly to really pull out the flavors, the broth itself probably does have a stronger flavor in comparison.
Want to try out Kansai oden for yourself?
◇Hanakujira (Main Shop)
This oden shop is very popular and cheap–there’s always a line.
You can really get a taste for Kansai’s oden broth, but also enjoy hints of persimmon, giving it another layer of flavor. The ingredients use are all seasonal, so each time you go you can get a different taste of oden!
2-8-2 Fukushima, Fukushima-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka
Hours:16:30~23:30 (Last Order: 23:00)
Closed on:Beginning of the year, end of the year, August (1 month)
– JR Fukushima Station – JR Osaka Loop Line ~ 5 min. walk
– JR Shin-Fukushima Station – JR Tōzai Line ~ 3 min. walk
**Check Tabelog for the most up-to-date information
When you come to Japan, you can enjoy the differences between the east and west.
Which area will win the oden battle in your books?!
Source of Cover Image: mrhayata