All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Oden (genen) / fishcake, tofu and root vegetable stew (reduced-sodium version)

An unbeatable comfort food in cold seasons! The original version had the major drawback of being loaded with sodium, but the dish is finally ready to be re-introduced at our table. Major differences are making the dashi stronger by additionally using niboshi young dried sardines for a powerful base, reducing the amount of sake, desalinating fishcakes, using reduced-sodium soy sauce, and partially replacing soy sauce with rice vinegar as well as substituting shiokoji salted rice malt for some salt. Each change may be minor, but the outcome is surprisingly low in sodium and of course very tasty!

535 calories (1/4 of recipe); 34.4 g protein; 28.7 g fat; 38.9g carbohydrate; 31.4 g net carbs; 282 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 286 mg cholesterol; 7.5 g fiber

(Serves 4)

For broth
1200 cc niboshi-kobu dashi (1400 cc kobudashi [water + 4 g kombu kelp] and approx. 70 g niboshi dried young sardines [29 medium niboshi, 69 g in photo])
1300 cc katsuo-kobu dashi (katsuobushi bonito flakes and kompu kelp)
100 cc sake
1 tbsp regular rice vinegar
1 tbsp kurozu brown rice vinegar 
2 tbsp shiokoji salted rice malt
1/2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp soy sauce

For goodies (no photo)
15 cm (approx. 400-450 g) daikon radish (414 g)
1-2 medium carrot (135 g)
Handful potatoes (9 fingerling potatoes, 275 g)
1 yakidofu broiled tofu (325 g)
1 konnyaku yam cake (235 g)
6-8 satsumaage deep-fried fishcakes (6 satsumaage, 262 g)
4 Uogashiage deep-fried fluffy fishcakes (200 g)
4 boiled eggs

Karashi mustard powder + slightly less amount of water (no photo)


Remove heads and bellies of niboshi dried young sardines.


Toast niboshi on medium low heat in pot
When aromatic and toasty, add 1400 cc kobudashi, and bring to boil (if starting with water and kelp instead of kobudashi, bring to boil on low to medium low heat).

From time to time remove white foam that appears on surface.
Remove kombu before dashi starts to boil, and continue simmering niboshi-kobu dashi for 20-25 minutes.
Strain, and obtain 1200 cc (add water if needed, or save excess for another use).

Meanwhile, prepare goodies.
Soak satsumaage and Uogashiage in boiling water for 15 minutes to desalinate.
See the conventional-version oden recipe for preparation of other ingredients.


In a large pot, put niboshi-kobu dashi, prepped goodies, katsuo-kobu dashi, rice vinegar, sake, salt and shiokoji, cover, and simmer on medium low heat for 1 hour.


Add 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, cover, and continue simmering for another 30 minutes.

Remove from heat, and allow to cool completely (let sit overnight, if possible).


After completely cool and letting it sit as long as possible, reheat, add remaining soy sauce (1/2 tbsp), and simmer for 30 minutes.


Serve hot with karashi + water mixture.

  • Among nerimono made of surimi ground fish, hanpen, chikuwa and others that are not deep fried lose their umami when desalinated, and they are not good choices for the above recipe. If they are must-haves, you can include them by only lightly desalinating (soaking in boiling water for 5 minutes reduces sodium by 30-40%), ideally in small amounts to prevent a significant increase in the overall sodium figure.
  • Kombu used for kobudashi or niboshi-kobu dashi can be tied into a knot (photo at right) and added to oden.
  • Ready-to-use karashi paste usually contains sodium. Opt for karashi powder -- mix it with slightly less water for 30 seconds or longer for maximum taste.
  • The above nutrition figures are based on taking only a few sips of broth. The total figures (when all broth is consumed) per serving (1/4 recipe) are: 535 calories; 36.7 g protein; 29.3 g fat; 42.3 g carbohydrate; 34.7 g net carbs; 1373 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 286 mg cholesterol; 7.6 g fiber. 
  • All calculations on sodium content seemed to look almost too good (217 mg per serving!), so I used very conservative numbers for the nutrition data above. 
  • When ready to eat, sodium content of the broth is 0.8%, which is quite low. (By the following day, the percentage will increase to 0.9%.) Those who have not been on a reduced-sodium diet are likely to find 0.8% too weak, and start to find it satisfying when sodium content is 0.9% or 1.0%. 
  • If the amount of broth seems too little, instead of adding water (making it weaker) or dashi (increasing sodium content), use an otoshibuta drop cover to keep floating ingredients immersed (photo at left).
(Last updated: December 1, 2018)

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