People think Japanese food is healthy. Is that because of deep fried Tempura or Tonkatsu? Probably not. That’s because we eat a lot of simmered or boiled vegetables. Vegetable dishes boiled or simmered in seasoned broth are called Nimono. This is true home cooking and hard to get at Japanese restaurants in the US.
Nimono is usually seasoned with combinations of soy sauce, sugar, Sake or Mirin that give vegetables sweet and salty flavors. The seasoned broth in Nimono is not soup to drink, but only to give vegetables flavoring. It gives mild flavorings to vegetables and enhances the taste of the vegetables.
Japanese pumpkin, Kabocha, is very dense and sweet, different from pumpkin in the US. In Japan, Kabocha is in season in winter, and this dish reminds me of winter time there. When Kabocha is cooked, the inside becomes bright orange. Kabocha’s thick and dense texture is closer to sweet potatoes than squash. Kabocha no Nimono usually has a sweeter broth than some other kinds of Nimono. But you can change to your liking.
Kabocha is very hard to cut when it’s raw, so please be careful. First stab it with knife, then cut down. Trim the sharp edges of the rind from the cut pieces of Kabocha. That’s supposed to help Kabocha from dissolving, according to my mother.
If you like yam on Thanksgiving, you’d like this dish, just not as sweet. It could be a side dish to an American main dish such as roast chicken or meatloaf. Or with any kind of Japanese main dish, of course.
Kabocha is available at many supermarkets in the US.
- 3 cups (720ml) Dashi
- 2 1/2lb Kabocha (pumpkin)
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp Sake
- Remove seeds and cut Kabocha into 3" square pieces. Cut off sharp edges of the Kabocha pieces.
- Boil Dashi in a pot and put Kabocha in it. Cook Kabocha covered until tender at medium heat, about 20-30 minutes depending on how hard your Kabocha is.
- Add sugar, soy sauce, salt and Sake to the Kabocha. Reduce heat to medium low, and cook another 15 -20 minutes to reduce the broth a little.
- Remove from heat and let it sit covered until cool. As it cools, Kabocha will absorb more of the flavor from the broth. If you like it warm, reheat before serving.