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Posted on Jan 14, 2009 in Gluten Free, Lactose Free, Leftover Remake, Recipe | 18 comments

Simmered kabocha recipe

Simmered kabocha recipe


Sorry about the blog posting slowdown lately; I’ve been busy with the new forum about bento and packed lunches, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day with a four-year-old! The upside is that the forum is hopping and we’ve got volunteer moderators on board now. Full steam ahead!

Simmered kabocha

Kabocha squash

Simmered kabocha squash is a favorite of mine — it’s one of the most flavorful squashes around, and is chock full of nutrients like beta carotene (especially when you eat the thin skin). Simmered kabocha is a staple in Japanese bento lunches, evoking strong memories for me of train station bentos and home cooking I ate in Japan. Simple to make, you can also transform any leftovers by mashing the cooked kabocha with a fork and making it into squash croquettes, substituting mashed squash for the mashed potatoes. Try it! 

Simmered Kabocha

Some recipes call for cutting the kabocha into chunks first and then painstakingly peeling a bit of the skin off of each chunk to aid cooking. That’s WAY too time-consuming and fiddly for me, so before I cube it I use a vegetable peeler to take random pieces of skin off of the whole kabocha first.

  • 1 small kabocha squash, about 2 pounds
  • 1.5 cups dashi (bonito fish broth, or you can use hon dashi instant granules for convenience)
  • 2 Tb mirin (sweetened cooking sake, or use regular sake and increase the sugar slightly. You can omit this entirely, but then increase the sugar to 2 Tb)
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  1. Thoroughly wash and rinse the kabocha before cutting, using a vegetable brush to remove any dirt.
  2. Cutting kabocha for simmeringCut the kabocha in half and remove the seeds and stringy insides (I use an ice cream scoop for this, but a spoon works well too). Cut into quarters, and use a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife to take off little bits of skin from random places all over the kabocha. This will help it cook evenly and flavor the inside of the squash. Cut the kabocha into 1.5-inch chunks.
  3. Put the kabocha chunks skin side down in a single layer in a  saute pan or deep frying pan.
  4. Mix together the dashi, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce, and pour into the pan with the kabocha.
  5. Cover with a drop lid or drop lid substitute (see note below)
  6. Bring to a boil over high heat, turn the heat down to medium low. Simmer kabocha until almost tender, about 20 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and let it cool in the remaining liquid for 15 minutes to develop the flavor. Serve warm or at room temp.

Oxo Good Grips vegetable peelerEquipment Note: My Oxo Good Grips vegetable peeler is killer at hard squash — a strong recommend if you’re in the market for a new one. (I’m not affiliated with Oxo, BTW.)

Holiday injury bento lunch for preschoolerPacking Tip: I store the kabocha in its simmering liquid in the refrigerator, but that makes it too moist to put in my son’s bentos as is. For optimal packed lunch food safety, first drain the kabocha in a strainer or on paper towels before packing, like I did in the lunch shown at left.

Freezing Tip: You can freeze the cooked kabocha for speed bentos. Drain and freeze in individual portions, or go the IQF (individual quick freeze) route for maximum flexibility. After draining, spread the chunks out on a metal baking sheet or pan and freeze. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag so that you can pull out a few chunks at a time.

* * * * *

Japanese drop lids for simmered dishes Japanese drop lid for simmering

A drop lid, or otoshi-buta, is a lightweight wooden lid that fits down inside of a pan and floats on the surface of simmering food. I picked these up at Daiso (Japanese discount store with branches internationally) for US$1.50 each, but for this recipe you could also just fashion a quick substitute out of a round of parchment paper or use a regular lid that’s too small for the pan you’re using.



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  1. What would you recommend for us vegetarians that think fish is loathsome as an alternate seasoning for the dashi? :)

  2. @1 from Kara: Vegetable broth would be a good substitute for the dashi.

  3. yummy! I love cooking with squash and just blogged about a great recipe myself I would love to hear what you think of it! Great blog, thanks xxx

  4. How long do kabocha store? I bought one a while ago, and haven’t gotten gotten around to cooking it yet. It is still hard, with no squishy spots that would make me immediately throw it away. It was an impulse buy at one of our local markets, and I just haven’t figured out what to do with it yet. Do you think it might still be good?

  5. Didn’t know if I’d have a chance to try this one, but I went to the Lotte Korean grocery store here in Columbus, OH today for other things and there was kabocha. I wonder if you could substitute other squash, like acorn or butternut.

  6. For anyone who is having problems finding kabocha, buttercup squash can be substituted. They aren’t exactly the same thing, but they both belong to the same species. In fact, at my local Mitsuwa, buttercup squash is sold as kabocha.

  7. Delicata squash or carnival squash would be good, too.

    I made this last night! I substituted a diluted vegetable broth for the dashi. It’s wonderful! A little sweet for me (I used mirin) so I might cut the sugar in half. I also cooked mine for too long. My pieces were cut much smaller than Biggie’s and they didn’t need the full 20 minutes to simmer. Still, I just mashed them up a little bit with a fork!

    A DEFINITE addition to my repertoire, thank you so much for sharing this recipe.

  8. Delicious! :9
    BTW- Try adding kabocha to your Laotian/Thai curry if you ever make any. They’re just like carrots that you’ve stewed for a long time… only sweeter!

  9. I tried this tonight and enjoyed it immensely! This was easier than the roast kabocha that I made before. And it gave me a reason to open the bottle of sake that had been sitting around the house. I like your recipe-writing style.

  10. Arigato for the great Kabacha recipe! I’ve learned that I was adding too much liquid before and making it too soggy. But no more! It’s a small world-I’m V’s friend and the last time I saw you was probably last Halloween….or a birthday party last November? Looks like you are doing well-your website comes up first when I type in Kabacha recipes!

  11. Thanks for the recipe. My mother used to make this all the time (she was Japanese) but it’s one of those dishes I took for granted, never figuring out how to make it. She used to add chunks of peeled potatoes in there, too. That gave some texture variation so I’ll be doing that.

  12. @12 Elana: Such a small world, Elana! I totally remember you. Missed you and your daughter at the Halloween Festival with V on Saturday…

  13. @13 from Stacy: Peeled potato chunks in with the kabocha? Sounds intriguing as a variation; I’ll try it out next time. Thanks for the tip!

  14. I tried kabocha once during a visit to Japan and loved it! I happened to find one at the market this afternoon!
    Gonna try this sometime this week. Thanks!

  15. very tasty!

  16. How does its taste compare to pumpkin? Is it sweet?

  17. Great recipe! I grew some Kabocha in the garden last summer and cooked it today.

    Thanks to your recipe it tasted just like in Japan!=D

  18. Made this a couple of weeks ago. Interestingly enough, the squash ended up tasting very much like boiled/steamed chestnuts. Tasty.


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