Kabocha Nimono, a heartwarming traditional dish, is quick and easy to prepare. It will bring kabocha's sweet, earthy essence to your table — along with the Japanese culinary princple of appreciating seasonality called kisetsukan (sensing the season).
Growing up in Mimasaka, a small town in Okayama prefecture, one of the sure signs of autumn's arrival was the sight of plump, sweet kabocha pumpking in the local markets.
Also known as the Japanese pumpkin, kabocha is a delightful vegetable cherished in many traditional Japanese dishes. It grows to a diameter of around 20-30 cm (8-12"), weighing about 1-2 kg. While the peak harvest season for kabocha is from July to August, the best time to relish this sweet and fluffy pumpkin is in autumn.
Post-harvest, the kabochas are stored to allow their sweetness to enhance. Purchasing kabocha from September to November is ideal for those seeking to enjoy it at its peak flavor and texture.
Ingredients (2 servings)
- Kabocha squash: 400g
- Soy sauce: 2 tablespoons
- Sugar: 1 tablespoon
- Mirin*: 2 tablespoons
- Sake: 2 tablespoons
- Water: 200 ml
- A pinch of salt
* About Mirin: Mirin is a sweet Japanese cooking wine essential for many traditional Japanese dishes. It provides a mild sweetness and a nice glaze to foods. It's available in Asian grocery stores or online in the West. If unavailable, a common substitute is a mix of white wine or sherry with a bit of sugar.
How to Prepare
- Cut the kabocha into bite-sized pieces, keeping the skin on for added texture and nutrients.
- Mix soy sauce, sugar, mirin, sake, and water in a pot and bring to a gentle boil.
- Add the kabocha pieces to the pot, cover, and let simmer on low heat for about 15-20 minutes or until the kabocha becomes tender.
- Occasionally check and pour the simmering liquid over the kabocha to ensure even flavoring.
- Once the kabocha is tender, let it sit in the simmering liquid to soak up the flavors before serving.
- Serve warm as a side dish, garnished with a sprinkle of sesame seeds if you like.
I earnestly hope that as you simmer and taste this sweet and savory dish, you'll find as much delight and warmth in it as I have throughout the years.