In Japan, we often use the word “MIKAKU NO AKI” for describing the autumn , literally means “the season of the flavor”.
The autumn is the season of the pleasure of the table!
I am sure nobody won’t disagree with that.
We have sweet potatoes, chestnuts, matsutake (expensive flavorful mushrooms), ginkgo, grapes, pears,,,,
I repeat saying every season has its special flavor, but I think the food of the autumn has more smell of its own ,and besides their warm colors make me nostalgic.
I could say the same thing here in the US.
I think people’s minds might already go to Thanksgiving, but before that we have a fun event, Halloween!
I was so amazed when I saw all the varaieties of winter squashes in front of grocery stores several years ago.
We don’t have that many varaieties in Japan.
However, I couldn’t find winter squash for me ,KABOCHA , in regular grocery stores 5 years ago.
I had to go to Asian grocery store to get one.
Nowadays thankfully KABOCHA squashes are well-known, and I can find them everywhere!
In Japan the word PUMPKIN indicates KABOCHA, and KABOCHA is the only winter squash we could purchase easily.
That is why they often appear on the table.
Today I will introduce very basic Japanese dish, using KABOCHA.
It is called KABOCHA NO NIMONO, simmered KABOCHA squash.
This is my mom’s regular, and hers is the BEST.
When I came back to Japan, I peeked of my mom’s cooking KABOCHA, and tried to steal her technique.
This is very simple dish, that is why a little technique matters.
I will try to reach her level.
Here are the ingredients and instruction!
- 1/4 medium size of KABOCHA squash
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of sake
- 1 teaspoon of shiro dashi* (or salt)
- 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of mirin
*what is shiro dashi?
Shiro dashi is a clear dashi soup stock concentration, made from light soy sauce.
The taste is more subtle than soy sauce, and since it usually made with dried bonito, round scad, sardine, and kelp, it has complete UMAMI flavor. This is very convenient if you have one in your fridge.
You could dilute this with water, and you can have soup stock for udon noodle instantly, or you could use for variety dishes as an accent.
Now let’s cooking KABOCHA NO NIMONO!
Oh, I didn’t like cutting KABOCHA.
It is so hard, and requires lots of power, don’t you think?
However, now I am excited in front of this hard skin vegetable because my friend introduces me KABO CHO!
I purchased this special knife for KABOCHA in Japan.
The handle has soft grip and it fits my hand.
According to the instruction, it is built for us not to need to use full power.
To make the most of it, I have to practice more, but ,,,
it is much easier!
Thank you, KABO CHO!
OK. Keep going.
Today I only use 1/4 of a whole KABOCHA, but…
scrape the all seeds.
Even if you are not going to use a whole, it is better to take all the seeds once you cut because seeds are the reason the left gets spoiled fast.
You could rinse the seeds and roast them for healthy snack,but today I say good-bye to them.
Wrap tight with plastic warp (I double wrapped), and keep it in the fridge.
You can use this in other time. ( I like them in miso soup! )
Here is 1/4 KABOCHA.
Cut off the head and the bottom, and,,,
peel the skin , but not all of it.
I like the skin, and it has more vitamin and carotene.
However for KABOCHA to absorb the soup well, I need to peel part of it.
Each family has their own KABOCHA NO NIMONO recipe, and if you want very clear soup or you don’t like the inner soft part, you may want to wash, but I like that part because it absorb dashi soup well and tastes really good.
Besides like skins and seeds, it has more nutrient than the body.
Then cut lengthwise by 2 inches thick.
Dice them by 2 inches.
OK, we prepared them, let’s cooking!
There is one important thing left before cooking.
Can you see the sharp edge?
We have to take this edge.
Because when we simmer, the sharp part cooks fast and softens easily.
It makes soup thick and cloudy.
We say that NIKUZURE.
To prevent NIKUZURE, we need to cut the edges.
all the edges!
This is a trivial work, but very important.
Now we put them,
in the shallow pot, skin side down.
Then add water, just it covers 80-90% of each dice.
Cook this in the medium heat, and when it starts boiling,
add the sugar.
I use brown sugar, but you could use granulated sugar here.
When we simmer anything, we need to add sweetness first.
If you add salty staff first, they don’t absorb the sweetness.
So add the sugar, and,
Then,if you have shiro dashi,
add shiro dashi.
If you don’t have this, add salt.
Close the lid, and simmer about 7~8 minutes until KABOCHA gets soft (insert the pick and make sure the softness).
I think they are ready for the next step.
Add mirin, and then,
add soy sauce.
Simmer without the lid, trying for KABOCHA to absorb all the soup.
As I mentioned above, each family has their own recipes.
Some of them like to leave some soup with KABOCHA, but my mom’s one doesn’t leave any soup.
That’s way they have strong flavor, and also even if they get cold, they are delicious.
Besides they are really good in a lunch box!
So, I take my mom’s way.
I used to be afraid of getting them scorched, but we have to be patient here.
A little more,,,,,
A little more,,,,
When you could see just a little bit liquid, turn off the heat.
The pot has residue heat, so the liquid will go.
Smell so good!
Simple and delicious!
This is the AUTUMN.
Mom, I think I am reaching you a little bit.
I wish I bring this to my mom now.
Instead someone enjoyed this a lot.
I am going to put some in your lunch box then!