Oxtail oden (fish cake stew) 牛テールおでん

Oxtail oden (fish cake stew). photo by Namiko Chen

This is a fancier version of oden — Japanese fish cake stew — with a richer, heartier broth made from a combination of oxtail and dashi. Once you make this very flavorful oxtail oden recipe, it’s hard to go back to the simple version anymore!

Oden (おでん), or fish cake stew, is a classic home-style Japanese dish that represents comfort and affordability. It is generally served as a small dish to accompany an alcoholic beverage. Oden consists of fish cakes of various shapes and types, along with boiled eggs, daikon radish and konnyaku (konjac).

This oxtail oden (テールおでん), boosted up with rich oxtail broth, is the ultimate comfort food that is best enjoyed with a chilled beer or hot sake!

Enjoy Oden at Yatai (Street Food Stall)
When we visited Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu, we had our first experience eating at food stalls called yatai (read more about it in this post: https://www.justonecookbook.com/fukuoka-travel-guide/). Before then, I had only seen yatai featured in Japanese movies, dramas and manga. So I was super excited that one of the most well-known characteristics of Fukuoka is yatai, with over 150 yatai throughout the city.

Oden is always kept simmering, ready to serve and enjoy at any time. This humble, mostly brown dish may not look so exciting or fancy, but it is a dish that warms you on cool mornings and nights. It’s also rich in nutrients and helps boost your immune system, keeping you healthy during the cold season.

Cooking Oxtail Oden in a Slow Cooker vs. Pressure Cooker
After making oxtail broth using the pressure cooker mode of my Instant Pot with success, I was curious to find out if I could use the same function to make oden since it takes less time. If you are not familiar, Instant Pot comes with both “slow cook” and “pressure cook” mode. To make sure I didn’t shortchange the accuracy of the results, I made the oden using both methods (two times each); here are the results:

Oden Made in Slow Cooker

The textures of the fish cake stay tender yet firm with a nice bounce.
All the ingredients absorb flavors really well.

If you are using Slow Cooker mode in an Instant Pot, you can fill the liquid and precooked food more than 2/3 for larger batch cooking (do not fill past the Max line).

Requires five to six hours to cook
Need to plan ahead

Oden made in Pressure Cooker

Cooks fast, in less than 15 minutes

The textures of the fish cakes are altered (too soft and soggy), and some even break into pieces.

Fish cakes don’t seem to absorb enough flavor.

The mochi in the tofu pouches come out.

Fish cakes expand in size when you use the Pressure Cooker mode (higher temperature).

If you are using Pressure Cooker mode in an Instant Pot, the total amount of precooked food and liquid should never pass 2/3 of the inner pot capacity, which means you have to cut down this recipe in half.

The Result…
After this experience, I am convinced that oden is best cooked in a slow cooker for a long period of time, just like how oden has always been prepared in the oden shops in Japan — slowly simmered in the broth over low heat.

The biggest drawback for cooking oden in a pressure cooker is how it affects the textures. When the fish cakes and the rest of ingredients turn soggy and too tender, the oden is essentially not attractive and palatable.

Even though the “short cooking time” in a pressure cooker is a strong appeal for many busy home cooks, the result is not worth it. Instead, I would suggest preparing everything on the previous night, put the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning, and go to work. By the time you come home, the food is ready for you to enjoy!

Alternative Cooking Method — Cook Oden over Stovetop
If you don’t own an Instant Pot or a slow cooker, you can still prepare oden over a stovetop. You just need to place most of the ingredients in a clay pot (or a large pot) and cook covered over low heat for over two to three hours (or longer if you are at home). Then add in the fish cakes and mochi pouch and cook for another 30 minutes. For this cooking method, check out my regular oden recipe for reference (https://www.justonecookbook.com/oden/).

I hope you enjoy making this oxtail oden with your Instant Pot or slow cooker. It is a great tool for flavorful fish cake stew that you and your family are happy to come home for.

Oxtail Oden (Japanese Fish Cake Stew)
This is a fancier version of oden — Japanese fish cake stew — with a richer, heartier broth made from a combination of oxtail and dashi. Once you make this very flavorful oxtail oden recipe, it’s hard to go back to the simple version anymore!

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 5 hours
Total time:
5 hours, 30 minutes
Servings: 4

For Oden Ingredients
2-3 packages oden set (assorted Japanese fish cakes and fish balls)
1 block konnyaku (konjac)
(9 oz, 255 g)
4 inch daikon radish
8 oz octopus (I used a frozen one, defrosted)
Homemade oxtail broth (I used 1/2 portion of meat from the oxtail broth recipe)
4 hard-boiled eggs

For Oden Broth
2 1/2 cup dashi (Japanese soup stock)
2 1/2 cup homemade oxtail broth
2 Tbsp mirin
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 tsp sugar

To Serve
2 tsp Japanese karashi hot mustard
1 Tbsp hot water

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, visit https://www.justonecookbook.com/ingredient-substitution-for-japanese-cooking.

To read the full recipe, visit https://www.justonecookbook.com/oxtail-oden/.

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