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Between rising sales tax and the dropping value of the yen, prices are on the rise for food in Japan. That puts us in a bit of a bind, since food is one of our favorite things to buy, along with swell stuff like shelter and clothing (although if you’re a work-from-home Internet writer, you can sometimes get away without that last one).

Thankfully, we recently found a way to make a delicious, hot meal that’s also dirt cheap, by tossing the stewed vegetable contents of a pack of oden from 7-Eleven into our rice cooker.

We were tipped off to this easy-to-prepare meal by one of our Japanese writers, Mr. Sato.

▼ Seen here posing with rejected Cheap Meal Idea Number One, a block of curry and a can of dog food

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If you’re not familiar with oden, it’s a type of Japanese cooking consisting of vegetables and an assortment of other ingredients slowly stewed and served with a generous amount of broth. It’s especially popular during the colder part of the year, and is sold as a kind of savory pick-and-mix at numerous food stands and convenience stores across the country, as well as being available in ready-to-heat packs like this one from 7-Eleven, which will only set you back about 200 yen (US$1.90).

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We’re big fans of using our rice cooker in unorthodox ways, and since we already had a bag of rice, we ran out to the convenience store to procure the rest of our supplies. The recipe itself is a snap. Start by pouring in one gou of rice (an amount equal to just about 180 milliliters, or one full cup using the container that comes with a Japanese rice cooker).

Ordinarily, you have to add water to the rice, but in this case, 7-Eleven’s oden comes packed with just enough broth to use as a substitute, so tear open the packet and dump everything in.

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Hit the start button, wait about 30 minutes for everything to cook, and you’re ready to eat.

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As we scooped the rice cooker’s steaming contents onto our plate, we could see that Mr. Sato had cleared the first hurdle on his promise for a hot, tasty meal. We grabbed our spoon, took a bite…

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…and it was awesome!

7-Eleven’s oden pack includes egg, burdock root, and fried fishcake. Aside from being delicious by themselves, cooking them all together in the rice cooker means their flavors, plus that of the broth, soak into the rice, meaning everything tastes good even if you don’t have the finest quality grain.

The amount Mr. Sato’s recipe makes is just right for a one-person serving, which is definitely an advantage if you live by yourself and lack the Tupperware or roomy fridge to easily store a bunch of leftovers. Another plus is that 7-Eleven’s oden packs will keep for months (the one we used for this article had an expiration date about five months past the day we bought it), meaning you can buy up a stockpile and cut down on how many trips to the store you have to make.

Japanese drinking culture also holds that the flavor of oden goes great with alcoholic beverages, so with a couple of packs and a few stiff drinks, you’ve got everything you’ll need to be warm, full, and happy on a cold winter night.

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Photos © RocketNews24
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