With Autumn being our favourite time of year it only stands to reason that kabocha squash, being such an Autumnal vegetable, is one of our go-to ingredients when we want to eat something Japanese and comforting. Kabocha, with its sweet yet savoury flavour makes a great main component for a meal, but works just as well as a side dish or a splash of colour in a bento. These recipes work well with butternut squash or most other hard skinned winter squashes (crown prince is a really good match for kabocha in both flavour and texture, but it’s probably best to peel its harder outer skin away)
Namul (or namuru) is a family of dishes of Korean origin; shredded vegetables, seasoned with sesame and served as a side dish. This namul works really well as a side dish to rich, sweet meat dishes such as buta no kakuni, and its nutty flavour contrasts extremely well with vinegared foods or those served with a ponzu dipping sauce. It even makes a great coleslaw substitute in sandwiches.
- 250g kabocha
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes (or fresh red chilli if you prefer)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- dash of black pepper
- Leaving the skin on, slice the kabocha into the thinnest slices you can, anywhere from 1-2mm thick is ideal, but don’t put your safety at risk. Then cut these slices into matchsticks, this could be done on a mandolin if you have one (we don’t have one, but I enjoy precise, meticulous tasks like this so always cut the squash by hand)
- Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the kabocha until it just starts to wilt. You don’t want it fully cooked and want to retain some slight crunch- this should only take a minute or two depending on the thickness of your sticks. Drain well, refresh in cold water then drain again.
- Partially crush the sesame seeds in a pestle and mortar or suribachi, making sure to leave some whole, some cracked and some completely ground.
- Mix the remaining ingredients except the chilli flakes in a bowl along with the kabocha and the seeds. Transfer to your serving bowl or onto plates, then sprinkle with chilli to taste- I find I use quite a lot of chilli to balance out the nuttiness of the sesame but feel free to adjust it to your taste.
Kabocha no Miso.
Roast kabocha chunks, seasoned with sake and miso then sprinkled with shichimi togarashi make a perfect bar snack thanks to the saltiness of the miso. They make a great side dish too.
- 500g kabocha
- 2-3 tablespoon sake
- 1 tablespoon shiro miso
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- shichimi togarashi to serve
- Preheat your oven to 190C or 375F
- Carefully peel the kabocha, leaving as much of the delicate green stained flesh underneath the skin as you can. Cut it into inch and a half chunks. Rub the pieces with one tablespoon of the oil and roast them on a baking tray for 20 minutes until fully cooked and lightly browned.
- Muddle together the miso, oil and enough sake to make a loose slurry and then anoint the cooked squash, giving it a gentle toss to evenly distribute the ‘sauce’. You only want a light coating or it’ll be too salty, so you may not need to use it all.
- Turn the heat up to 210C or 410F and return the kabocha to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, enough time to drive off the moisture and allow the edges to brown and lightly crisp.
- Transfer the little nuggets of kabocha to your serving plate and sprinkle with the togarashi (or serve the togarashi on the side for people to add their own).