Kabocha or more commonly known as Japanese pumpkin is a common vegetable seen during late Summer and early Autumn. It is a beautiful squash similar to butternut squash, but has a more sweeter flavour in comparison. It has a very moist and soft texture. The skin is edible as well and it is what keeps the pumpkin intact. It is a common side dish in Japanese cuisine served at room temperature or as a cold dish.
Kyoto, Japan is where I had first encountered kabocha. I had ordered the restaurant's Autumn lunch special on my way to Kiyomizu-dera Temple and was presented with a colourful array of seasonal vegetables. I loved how the Japanese prepared the kabocha in a simmered broth and every time I have it now, it reminds me of Kyoto.
Japanese Cooking 101 has some delicious recipes that I've already tried and plan on trying some more. I've adapted their version to the local ingredients that are available to me and I've used a different variation of a dashi stock.
- Soak kombu in water for 20 minutes in a pot. Bring the water to a boil. Add bonito flakes and turn off heat. Let it soak for 5 minutes. Strain through a sieve three times or until clear. Set dash stock aside.
- Wash kabocha to remove excess dirt. Carefully, slice kabocha in half. Using a spoon, scoop out seeds. Cut kabocha into 2-3 inch pieces.
- Return dash stock into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and add kabocha and cook covered until tender, about 20-30 minutes.
- Add sugar, soy sauce, salt and mirin to the pot and careful mix trying not to damage the flesh of the kabocha. Reduce heat to medium low and cook uncovered for another 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let it cool. Serve the kabocha room-temperature or cold as a side dish. OR puree the mixture using a hand-blender and serve as a soup. For the soup, I like to add paprika to add bit a of heat.
The pumpkin is sweet and earthy, and the soup has a luscious texture. If you don't strain the dashi stock after boiling the kombu and bonito flakes, it may taste grainy because of the dirt from the kombu. Washing the kombu before soaking it removes some of its saltiness and that's why I rather strain the stock afterwards. It's a beautiful reminder of Kyoto and it's something I look forward to when Autumn is around the corner.