January 21 marked this year’s Daikan, the coldest day in winter according to the traditional East Asian calendar. True to its prediction, Japan was hit by a cold wave on that day and many people, your reporter included, found themselves craving something warm and toasty to heat their bodies and fill their stomachs.
And nothing warms the body on a cold winter day like oden, a Japanese winter soup dish prepared by boiling ingredients like winter veggies, tofu, eggs and fish cakes in a soy sauce-flavored broth.
Using Daikan as an excuse, I decided to treat myself to a desert-themed variation of oden I had recently heard about that swaps out the standard oden ingredients for fruit and sweets and boils them in a hot little clay pot of spiced oolong tea and happiness.
The dish is known as Sweets Oden and can be purchased at Hong Kong Sweets Kaka in Sweets Forest, a desert theme park in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo consisting of 8 stores specializing in a wide range of sweets from around the world.
Orders are limited to just 5 a day and can be reserved in advance by phone.
The broth is composed of an oolong tea base with fragrant olive wine, cloves, cinnamon and several other spices added in for aroma and flavor.
Sliced apple, kiwi, orange and other fruits are added to the broth and boiled in a clay pot along with sweet red bean paste gyoza and shiratama rice-flour dumplings.
The sweetness and acidity of the fruit works in perfect harmony with the spicy broth to warm you to the core and the dish is neither too sweet nor too bland, leaving you feeling satisfied and refreshed instead of sluggish and overloaded with sugar.
I walked in the restaurant expecting the dish to be something heavy and too sweet like chocolate fondue, but I walked out feeling like I had just discovered the perfect cure to the winter chill.
Anyone looking for a sweet spin on a quintessential Japanese winter dish should pick a chilly day, bundle up in their warmest winter coat and head over to Sweets Forest to get the most of this hot pot before the seasons change.
■ Store Information: HONG KONG SWEETS Kaka（Jiyugaoka Sweets Forest）
Address: 2-25-7 Midorigaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo-t
Business Hours: 10:00-20:00, closed New Years Day
URL: http://hongkongsweetskaka.com/ (Japanese only)
▼ Hotter and more satisfying than I imagined!
▼ How could your mouth not water at an apple like this?
▼ Spice-infused sweet potato!
▼ Red-bean paste gyoza
[ Read in Japanese ]