Simmered Kabocha Squash
I went over to my mom’s today, to give her a taste of my kabocha squash and she says, “it’s sweet, but could cook longer.” My mom doesn’t give out compliments easily, but she was right. It needed to be cooked about 5 minutes longer, and it tasted much better that way. To accompany the squash, I also made her hot cooked rice, tamago yaki (sweet egg omelette), and harusame noodle salad. She said the rice was good. Whew!
Kabocha, the Japanese squash is commonly cooked in a kombu dashi (seaweed stock), then seasoned with soy sauce, mirin, and salt. The sauce brings out the natural sweetness of the pumpkin. What is unique about kabocha is that the exterior skin is soft enough to eat after it is cooked. This dish is best when the kabocha is tender, but not too soft. Kabocha may differ in their water content, so you may have to adjust the cooking time to get the right texture.
Simmered Kabocha Squash
1 (2 ½ pound) kabocha squash, or about 6 cups
For the kombu dashi (seaweed stock)
4 cups water
1 piece of kombu seaweed (dried kelp), 4 x 4 inches
For the sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1. To make the kombu dashi, heat the kombu and water in a 3-quart saucepan; when it reaches a low simmer, remove the kombu.
2. Cut the kabocha in half, top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds and stringy parts with a spoon. Place the kabocha cut-side down on the cutting board to keep it stable while you are cutting. Cut each half into fourths. Turn the pieces over and cut each piece into two or three wedges. Then cut each wedge into 1 ½ inch pieces.
3. To make the sauce, combine the mirin, soy sauce, salt and sugar. Stir to dissolve salt and sugar.
4. Place the kabocha pieces in a 10-quart stock pot. Pour about 1 ½ cups of kombu dashi over the kabocha. (Save the rest of the dashi for later use). Turn up the heat and bring all the contents to a boil; then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the kabocha should be tender, but still firm near the skin; if it is still very firm, continue to simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add the sauce to the pot. Coat the kabocha with sauce using a spoon. Gently stir the kabocha at this point as they are fragile and can break apart easily. Continue to simmer, covered, for 10 more minutes or until the kabocha is done.
5. Let the kabocha cool for 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with pieces of kombu that was used to make the kombu dashi.