Kabocha, which literally means “pumpkin” in Japanese is a variety of pumpkin with sweet flesh and a starchy texture that’s closer to sweet potatoes than the pumpkins we carve for Halloween. The creamy orange flesh is contrasted by a forest green skin, both of which get incredibly tender as they cook.
Kabocha no Amagarani or “sweet and savory simmered pumpkin” is a simple Japanese side dish that’s eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner in Japan. Because of its vibrant color, it’s a popular addition to bento boxes and it tastes great with a bowl of rice.
To get the best results, you normally have to cook the kabocha and let it sit in the cooking liquid overnight to ensure it’s properly seasoned, but by marinating it in sugar and soy sauce before cooking it, you can serve it right away. The marinated pumpkin is cooked in dashi (Japanese stock), along with the marinade until tender and seasoned to the core.
Making dashi, isn’t difficult, but it does require some Japanese ingredients, so if you don’t live in an area with an Asian grocery store, you can substitute vegetable stock, chicken stock, or even water. While kabocha pumpkins usually start showing up this time of year at farmer’s markets and upscale supermarkets, if you can’t find them near you, try this with sweet potatoes or acorn squash.
Sweet and Savory Kabocha Pumpkin
- 1 pound kabocha pumpkin (1/2 of a small kabocha)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 cup dashi, (stock or water will also work)
- Remove the seeds from the kabocha and cut it in half lengthwise and then in half again crosswise so you have 4 roughly equal sized pieces.
- Slice into evenly-sized wedges and then sprinkle with sugar and drizzle with soy sauce. Let the kabocha marinate for 2 hours.
- Place the marinated kabocha in a pan just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour the marinade over them along with the dashi.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat and then lower the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Carefully flip the pumpkin pieces over after 7 minutes and continue to cook, gently shaking the pan from time to time to allow the sauce to wash up over the kabocha.
- The kabocha is cooked when it is tender and the sauce has reduced to a thick glossy glaze (about 15-20 minutes).
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.