Stewed Kabocha

Happy Thanksgiving! I never had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner growing up, so I can’t offer a tried-and-true turkey or stuffing recipe. The closest thing I have to offer is a classic Japanese pumpkin dish.

My grandmother is big on kabocha, saying it prevents cancer. She’s from Hiroshima, which means she calls kabocha “nankin” and says other endearing words in the Hiroshima dialect like “houjyaken no” and “sou desu waine.” She practically lived in the kitchen and made real down-home Japanese food. She cooked for us daily, but she always ate yesterday’s leftovers. My grandmother’s generation, having lived through the difficult post-war years, didn’t waste a thing. She’s the kind of person who put everyone else first as she scraped the cold rice to eat for herself.

I was young and not yet interested in cooking, but I wish I had stuck by her side to watch her work her magic. I still learned a lot from her by way of eating and this is one dish I cannot make without thinking of her.


Stewed Kabocha
Adapted from ぜひ覚えたいおかず
Makes 4 servings

21.25 oz. kabocha
1 cup dashi
2 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. mirin
1 Tbsp. shoyu

Wash and seed the kabocha and cut into large bite-sized pieces. With a vegetable peeler, swipe the edge off the corners where the skin meets the flesh, on all 4 sides (if your kabocha is cut roughly into cubes). With a knife, peel off parts of the skin—not completely, just in some places so the skin isn’t too tough when cooked.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the kabocha and mix to coat with the oil. The kabocha will begin to change color, becoming a brighter orange. At this point, add the dashi, bring to a boil and carefully remove any impurities that rise to the surface. Since pot sizes vary, be sure there’s enough dashi so the kabocha barely peek out and adjust the other seasonings accordingly. Add the sugar and mirin and fit a plate inside the pot—upside down on top of the kabocha—and let cook for 4–5 minutes. Add shoyu, lower the heat, and cook for another 10 minutes. Occasionally swirl the pot around so the dashi mixture coats the kabocha. Taste the dashi and add more shoyu or mirin if necessary. Insert a toothpick into a piece of kabocha and if it slides easily, it’s done!

This will keep for a few of days and the flavors will meld nicely. The stewed kabocha is also delicious eaten cold.

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  1. Posted November 28, 2009 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoy eating Kabocha squash too. Normally I just steam and puree it and enjoy it as an afternoon snack. But next time I get my hands on a Kabocha squash, I’ll definitely try this recipe, sounds delicious! :)

  2. Posted November 28, 2009 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Stephanie, the simplicity of steaming and pureeing kabocha sounds delicious as a snack. What a healthy treat—I’ll have to try this!

  3. Janet
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    This is my favorite recipe for kabocha squash. I had my first bite of it in college when I was with Ross, and attempted making it for the first time a few years ago. It reminds me of simpler days in college, discovering new things and expanding my educational and culinary horizons. Good memories!

    BTW, I saw Debbie and Ben this weekend! We had brunch in Berkeley at a lovely French provincial restaurant called La Note. She’s 4.5 months preggers and super cute! I’ll have to come to LA soon to visit ya’lls =)

    Hope you had a wonderful non-Traditional Thanksgiving. Me, I ate way too much and am now back in spandex, haha. Funny, but really not.

  4. Posted November 30, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Deb told me she saw you—so glad you guys had a chance to meet up! Definitely let us know when you plan to come down for a visit. Would love to see you!

  5. mimi
    Posted April 10, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    I love this ready-to-eat item whenever I’m at a Japanese “delicatessen” Azusa, I’m wondering, do you ever recall your Grandmother making a soup with cubed kabocha and dango (dumplings) in a very simple shiru. That’s really all I can remember. She’d put AP flour in a bowl, drizzle tap water into the flour and mix with a spoon till it was a thick batter. Once she boiled the shiru (water, shoyu) & kabocha cubes, she’d drop/plop large tablespoon sized batter into the boiling liquid. When the dumplings float to the top, it’s ready. Have you ever had such a soup? It was in retrospect a Japanese version of Jewish matzo ball soup. I crave it when I need comfort. The two things I’m just not sure about are the actual soup base & the dumplings. I’m not sure if in my 45 year ago recollection, I may be missing some ingredients in both those elements. Would love to hear if you know about this simple country soup and if so, a recipe? Thank you.

  6. Posted April 12, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    mimi, I’ve never had this soup but it sounds so comforting and I can see it’s a strong food memory for you. I checked a few of my cookbooks, but couldn’t find anything similar. I’m sorry not to be of any help, but please let me know if you find a recipe for it!

  7. Posted May 30, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Just made this tonight to eat during the week. It’s my favorite way to cook kabocha! Since I’m trying to consume less sugar, I didn’t add the tablespoon of sugar and it’s still plenty sweet. I especially love this squash cold MMM

  8. Posted May 30, 2016 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    May, you know… I think omitting the sugar is a good move. And I agree! Cold kabocha is tasty, especially day 2 kabocha.

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