Did you know that we serve a delicious, savory chunk of kabocha pumpkin in each and every one of our bento boxes? It’s true! The mellow orange square with the green skin, usually nestled next to one of the entrees is it, in all of it’s sweet and gently salty glory. Kabocha simmered in this way is a quintessential Japanese side dish, and one that most enjoyers of Japanese home cooking are intimately familiar with. Fortunately, simmered kabocha pumpkin, like we have in our bento, is fairly simple to prepare, and only requires a few ingredients, basic skills with a knife, and a little patience. Check out the following recipe to prepare simmered kabocha at home and get you one step closer to making a traditional bento box of your very own!
Bento Style Simmered Kabocha Pumpkin
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
½ medium sized kabocha pumpkin (the whole pumpkin should weigh about 4lbs prior to cutting and seed removal)
2 tbsp mirin
200ml water (a little more than ¾ cup)
Cut the kabocha pumpkin in half. This may be challenging as the flesh of the pumpkin is fairly strong. Use a sharp knife, and if you’re still having difficulty, try microwaving the entire pumpkin for about 3 minutes to soften it.
Use a spoon to hollow out the seeds and pulp.
Carefully trim off any large bumps or blemishes from the skin. While the skin is perfectly edible, occasionally stem-like growths will appear on the sides of the pumpkin, and the texture is not quite as appealing as the smooth skin.
Cut the pumpkin half into small squares, about 1-2 inches across.
Bevel the edges of the pieces where the skin meets the flesh. This will prevent the pumpkin squares from falling apart when they are cooked.
Place the squares skin-side down into a large pot.
Add water, shirodashi base and mirin. Gently swirl the pot around to make sure that the liquid is mixed.
Using medium-high heat, bring the liquid to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cover. Allow the pumpkin to simmer for 20-30 minutes, until it is fully cooked. To check, look at where the skin meets the flesh. If the flesh is beginning to crack away from the skin, the pumpkin is fully cooked.
Remove the heat, and allow the pumpkin to sit, still covered for 30 minutes. This will allow the kabocha to continue to absorb the flavor of the dashi and mirin without drying out.
Serve kabocha at room temperature, and enjoy!