A Seasonal Recipe - Japanese Pumpkin 南瓜の煮物

Happy Halloween! Today we thought we’d give everyone a great seasonal recipe, and what could be more seasonable today than pumpkin? Pumpkin is a type of winter squash, and although associated with American festivals such as Halloween and Thanksgiving, various forms of pumpkin are eaten all around the world, including in Asia.

In Japan the favorite variety of pumpkin is a little different from the large orange pumpkins we are used to seeing here. The local specialty in the Land of the Rising Sun is a smaller pumpkin known as Kabocha, or sometimes simply Japanese pumpkin. Kabocha are much smaller than American pumpkins, and their outer peel is green. However, just like western pumpkins the inside is orange and filled with seeds that look like regular pumpkin seeds. Here is a simple and delicious pumpkin recipe from Japan.

Kabocha Nimono (南瓜の煮物)

In Japan root vegetables and other vegetables such as squashes are frequently boiled or stewed (known in Japanese as nimono). This simple preparation is nutritious, easy and healthy; it is a common staple of home style cooking.


  • 3 cups dashi (fish broth), or other soup broth
  • 2 ½ lb. Kabocha pumpkin
  • 1 ½ tablespoon soy sauce (or tamari to be gluten free)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons sake or mirin (sweetened rice wine)


  1. First wash, and then cut open kabocha and remove seeds. Then cut into small chunks. Be careful as raw kabocha is very tough – go slowly to avoid knife slips. Sometimes it is useful to first slowly stab into the kabocha before cutting. The outer rind is completely edible so there is no need to remove, except for trimming off any very hard or gnarled parts. The traditional base in Japan is dashi (fish broth – click here for a recipe). However, other types of clear broth can be used as well.
  2. Put broth into a small pot and add kabocha chunks. Bring to a boil and then simmer on medium for 20-30 minutes until kabocha is soft enough to be pierced easily by a fork.
  3. Add in other ingredients and continue to simmer another 15-20 minutes to reduce broth a little. Some recipes will also add about a tablespoon of sugar as well. This is optional for a sweeter dish, although I usually find the kabocha sweet enough without.
  4. Remove from heat and let sit covered until cooler so the kabocha absorbs the cooking liquid flavor more. Serve slightly warm to room temperature, or reheat a little before serving.

According to Chinese medicine pumpkins as a food have a slightly cooling nature, with a sweet and slightly bitter flavor. Cooking them for a longer period of time as in this recipe makes their thermal nature neutral to slightly warming. They have a direct positive effect on the Spleen and Stomach (the organs of digestion in Chinese medicine), and are said to supplement those organs as well as build the Qi (the vital substance in the body). In particular they are eaten to treat diarrhea, poor digestion, low energy, and edema in the lower body.

Happy Halloween! If you try this recipe be sure to let us know (you can post a photo of your finished product on our Facebook page - click here to go directly there).