Kabocha no Nimono (Japanese Simmered Pumpkin)

Kabocha no Nimono photo

Photo by OriginalJo

I love simmered dishes. In Japan, simmered dishes are referred to as ‘nimono’. In this post, I will share with you a wonderful dish called Kabocha no Nimono. Kabocha is a pumpkin squash that is readily available in most supermarkets. It’s deep green with orange flesh. When choosing kabocha, be sure to look for one that is heavy for it’s size.

This dish is great as a side dish and best served cold. The sweetness of the reduction in this dish really go well with the flavour of the kabocha. So if you’re ready, let’s cook!

You will need:

  • 1 medium kabocha
  • 2 cups dashi
  • 4 Tbsp mirin
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • a pinch salt

Start by using a vegetable peeler and peeling random bits of skin off the kabocha. This will give it a nice appearance when your done. The skin is totally edible so don’t worry. Then grab a nice, heavy knife and cut the kabocha into slightly bigger than bite-size pieces. My suggestion: cut in half, then into wedges and finally into chunks. Be careful since kabocha is hard.

Put the pieces into a large pan with high sides. You want the kabocha to be in a single layer with the skin side down. Add the dashi and turn the heat up to high. Once the dashi starts to simmer, add the rest of the ingredients in this order: sugar, mirin, salt and soy. Why in that order? I’ll tell you in a minute. When the mixture starts to boil, turn it down to medium, put on an ‘otoshibuta’ and let simmer for about 25-30 minutes.

The さしすせそ method:

The ‘sa, shi, su, se, so’ method is a phonetic way to remember a simple rule of Japanese cooking. ‘Sa, shi, su , se, so’ are 5 hiragana that come from the Japanese writing system. If you remember ‘sa, shi, su, se, so’, you will easily remember something very important. In this case, the order that you add ingredients to a dish to make it taste it’s best. Let’s go over them again…

sa: satou = sugar
shi: shio = salt
su: su = vinegar
se: shoyu = soy sauce
so: miso

So, as you see, I added the ingredients following our method. Yes, it works…trust me. The Japanese have been doing this for generations before science measured sugar molecules, etc…
Ok, another note: otoshibuta is also known as a drop lid.

Traditionally, it’s a wooden lid that fits inside the diameter of the opening of the pot, letting it sit directly on top of the food you are cooking. This increases the temperature in the pot and encourages a more efficient circulation of the heat inside as you cook. This, in turn, concentrates sugars and reduces your liquids faster, making them more flavourful at the same time. How awesome is that? The best part is if you don’t have one, you can fashion one out of aluminum foil or a piece of parchment paper. It works like a charm.

Once your time has elapsed, check on your kabocha. Most of the liquid should be gone. When you cook with an otoshibuta, you have to keep an eye since things will cook faster than you’re used to. When most of the liquid is absorbed, your dish is done. Let cool, then serve!
Now remember, the ‘sa, shi, su, se, so’ method works with not only nimono dishes, but with everything so be sure to remember it! Enjoy this dish. Have fun in the kitchen and take care…

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