Monday, February 28, 2011

Japanese cooking: kabocha no nimono (Japanese simmered pumpkin)

kabocha no nimono

かぼちゃの煮物 (kabocha no nimono) is a very popular Japanese side-dish, especially in fall and winter when squash is in season. It has become a favourite at our house and it's super easy to make.

The ingredients:
*kabocha (Japanese pumpkin)
*dashi powder
*cooking sake
*soy sauce
*sugar (if desired)
*salt (if desired)

First, remove the seeds and cut up the kabocha into chunks leaving some of the green skin on. (The skin becomes soft during the simmering and adds colour contrast.)

Put the kabocha into a pot and cover with water. For a half pumpkin, I use about 400 ml of water with a good sprinkle of dashi powder mixed in. The water/dashi should just cover the kabocha chunks.

Bring it to a boil, then add the mirin, sake, and soy sauce. I usually use about two tablespoons of each. If desired, add a tablespoon of sugar. (I often use brown sugar but any would do.) Again if desired, add a sprinkle of salt.

Turn down the heat and cover with a paper towel. Simmer until the liquid has reduced, or until soft, but not mushy. Cool and serve.

Having looked at a few recipes online, both in English and Japanese, everyone seems to have their own ratio of sake/mirin/soy sauce. Some even eliminate the sake. Some add sugar, others don't. The same with salt. It's the kind of dish that you can easily adjust to your own taste. Basically, the sugar, and mirin will add sweetness. The soy sauce will add saltiness. You don't want the flavours to be too strong so that they drown out the natural sweetness of the kabocha either.

Here are a couple recipes to refer to, that also have some additional information that might be of interest.
Kanako's Kitchen
The Aimless Cook

Note: To make this a vegetarian dish, just use konbu (seaweed) dashi instead of the usual fish stock dashi. It's also possible to make it without dashi, just using water.


Besides having it as a side-dish for dinner, H likes to have some in his bento that he takes to work. He used to always eat at the company cafeteria but he got tired of it and since January, as a kind of New Year's resolution, he has been making a bento for himself almost every day. This is a bento he had last week.

He likes a lot of rice (it is the Japanese staple food after all) so the top layer in the photo is rice with salted seaweed spread on top. The second layer contains, from left to right, green beans with ground toasted sesame seeds, spring rolls, the simmered kabocha, and a little more rice with ume (sour plum) and shiso furikake. He often buys miso soup and perhaps a small salad at the canteen to go with it.


As well as my own entry for this month's Hello Japan! mini-challenge, this is also my first contribution to Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads who says:

Weekend CookingWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

I hope to join in Weekend Cooking quite regularly and share more Japanese food with you, either that I've made or that we've eaten out. Let me know if you have any specific requests of Japanese foods you'd like to see or know more about, and I'll see what I can do. And if you make the simmered pumpkin, let me know how it turns out.


  1. Wow, that bento (plus box) looks super-sleek and beautiful. Why do we in the Netherlands have bread-with-cheese and an apple for lunch? :-)

  2. Is it just me, or does the bento picture doesn't show?

    I just bought a butternut squash. Too bad I already have two dishes planned with it. This sounds interesting :)

  3. That pumpkin sounds delicious and very easy to make.

    Oh I love your bento box. And I feel myself caving ... I just know I'm going to start fixing bentos for Mr. BFR soon.

  4. Did you ever prepare manju? Do you know any good recipes how to make them? I've tried once, but there was something wrong with them...

  5. I don't think I've tried this dish before, but my curiosity is definitely piqued after reading your lovely post! I'll have to look out for this on my next visit to the Japanese restaurant. :)

  6. This is Owl59.

    Thank you v. much for yesterday!

    Your husband prepares Obento for himeself?

    Good for him!

    And nice lunch box and bag!

  7. Can't wait to see what else you come up for Weekend Cooking posts. I do like Japanese food a lot!

  8. Glad to have you on board for Weekend cooking :) I covet your bento box, but it may be a little too large for my appetite. It's a size L I guess?
    Does kabocha differ in taste and texture from other pumpkins? Just wondering...

  9. Kabocha no nimono is such a comforting dish:) Reminds me of my oba-chan. We also eat kabocha curry in Sri Lanka that is also quite nice:) Sorry I couldn't participate this month but it's been lovely seeing what everyone else has been cooking!

  10. Judith - Lol. I like bread and cheese too! The variety of bento is certainly appealing though. Since H started taking a bento to work these last couple months, I kind of wish I had occasion to do so too. (I'm often home for lunch or not somewhere I could easily sit and eat my own lunch).

    Cynni - I'm glad you were able to see the pictures properly later. And you can always try this version next time you have squash. :)

    Beth F - I know! I don't really have the opportunity or need for a bento myself but seeing his each day is making me want to make myself a bento regardless. LOL.

    litera - I've eaten manju but never made it. Sorry I can't be more help. Have you tried searching for a recipe online?

    Melody - I wonder if they would serve it at a Japanese restaurant. It's such a typical home-cooking dish, certainly not fancy. ;)

    Owl59 - Yes, I've made it for him a couple times when he's been really busy/super tired, but most of the time he makes it himself. They're not necessarily elaborate or fancy but he's enjoying it. :)

    Marg - Thanks. I've often thought of posting more foodie things so this was the excuse I needed.

    Chinoiseries - The bento box is fairly large but it's quite slim too. I'm not really sure about the size, as far as I know they don't label them like that in the stores here. But it seems to suit H and he does have a fairly big appetite. I suppose if you filled it with salad type things it would be much lighter than all the rice he likes.

    Kabocha is quite dense if that makes sense. I think it is most similar to acorn squash, if I'm remembering correctly. I rarely see any other kind of squash here so it's been years since I've had other varieties.

    Sakura - Kabocha curry sounds nice. I've really enjoyed seeing everyone's cooking posts too.


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