Japanese Braised Kabocha Squash is an easy delicious side dish that reheats well. Many of us boil, roast, steam or grill vegetables. But, have you ever tried braising vegetables? I typically think of braising meat with vegetables in a flavored liquid at low heat, in the form of some sort of stew. In Japanese cuisine, however, vegetables are often simmered in a dashi-based seasoning liquid until the liquid is absorbed into the vegetables.
This type of dish is called Nimono. Although the most basic liquid simmering sauce is dashi, other ingredients are often added, including soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. Ginger and miso can also be added.
Braising vegetables in a dashi-based braising liquid is an easy and delicious way to add flavor to hardy vegetables such as kabocha squash (or other winter squashes), carrots, turnips and other root vegetables.
Kabocha squash is a Japanese winter squash that has a similar texture and taste to butternut squash. You can find this squash at Japanese markets and other Asian markets. Winter squashes are good sources of vitamin A and potassium, and help reduce inflammation according to Chinese medicine. They are also a very good source of vitamin C and B1, folic acid, pantothenic acid, potassium and dietary fiber.
Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Japanese food, so I pulled out one of my favorite and oldest Japanese cookbooks, The Poetical Pursuit of Food by Sonoko Kondo, and found a recipe for braised squash and okra. I left out the okra and reduced the amount of sugar by from three tablespoons to one tablespoon.
Kabocha squash skin is actually edible, so you can leave some of the skin on if you like. My squash had a lot of hard knobs on it so I cut most of it off, but there have been kabocha squashes where I’ve left a lot more skin on.
The finished dish is rich and flavorful, so much better than plain boiled or steamed squash. I encourage you to try this method of cooking kabocha squash or any other winter squash.
Japanese Braised Kabocha Squash
- 1 pound kabocha squash or butternut squash
- 1 1/2 cups dashi
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons mirin
Cut squash in half, remove seeds and cut in half. Peel skin using a sharp knife. To make it easier to cut and peel, place the whole squash in the microwave for a 1-2 minutes. Cut squash into 2 inch pieces.
Place dashi, soy sauce, sugar, mirin and squash in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes until squash is soft and cooked through.
Adapted from The Poetical Pursuit of Food by Sonoko Kondo.