A while back I posted my take on Okonomiyaki, Japan’s famous savory cabbage pancake. It’s filled to the brim with yummy delights like shrimp and bacon, and remains a family fave. But sometimes I’m craving this deconstructed version, where I cook just the cabbage, drizzled read more
If you love winter squashes but have never tried kabocha, you’re in a for a treat. Sometimes called Japanese pumpkin, Kabocha is sweeter than pumpkin and even than butternut squash. When gently simmered, it becomes incredibly tender and makes a perfect side for nearly any main dish. I love to make this Simmered Kabocha all winter long, it’s especially welcome at any holiday gathering. Kabocha’s natural sweetness makes this an ideal vegetable for even the pickiest of eaters and of course its gorgeous hue is just perfect for this time of year.
I’m going to be real. My daughter Emi and her girlfriend, who are graduating college seniors, use my website to deepen their culinary repertoire. And they often give me feedback, which is incredibly welcome, because I want to do my best for you guys and know that the recipe works as well for you as it does for me. One thing they mentioned this weekend is that my prep times are not accurate, since most people are not chopping at the same speed. So I will be working on that and trying to give you more accurate preparation times.
Which is all just a segue to the not so good news…pumpkins take some work to peel and cut. You want to work carefully and slowly because pumpkins are large, dense, roll around, and are not easy to cut. So some basic precautions: take your time and don’t rush the process, use a sharp knife, and put the pumpkin on the floor if you need more leverage to cut it open.
However, you can avoid this whole scenario if you wish, by leaving the pumpkin unpeeled. Japanese people peel all their produce. It enhances the look, giving that extra visual appeal, and makes your veggies shine. Moreover, since Japanese food focuses heavily on seasonality and aesthetics, it’s just part of normal food preparation. But you can absolutely eat the rind and it’s not necessary to remove it. I know you’re not daunted, so let’s get to it.
This is such a simple recipe, with just a few ingredients to really let the sweet, almost chestnut like flavors, of the kabocha shine. I start by cutting the squash in half. First, I put down a damp kitchen towel so the kabocha isn’t rolling all around while I’m trying to cut through it. (Since we’re only using half the squash, save the other half and make my Kabocha Soup!)
If the kabocha is particularly dense, it may be difficult for you to cut through the pumpkin. In that case, put it on the floor so you can put your weight behind the knife. Don’t attempt to cut through the kabocha in one shot. Cut into it from one side through the center and then flip the kabocha around and cut into it from the other side. You may need to do this a couple of times until you can cut down through the middle and split the pumpkin in half. Take your time.
If you’re a proud member of the Reduce Food Waste Club, you can save the seeds and roast them just like you would pumpkin seeds.
Try to make fairly consistent cuts so it all cooks through at the same time. Once the kabocha is prepped, it’s time to cook. I add a few flavor boosters to the simmering liquid like dashi powder and mirin which add a subtle bit of umami and sweetness.
Let it gently simmer for 15-20 minutes. Check every so often that there’s still a little liquid left in the pan. Once it’s done there will be very little left, but we don’t want it drying out and sticking to the pan before the Simmered Kabocha is completely cooked through and tender. When it’s done the squash will be easily pierced with a fork.
I hope this becomes part of your regular winter meal rotation. Let me know what you think; you can rate the recipe and comment. And of course tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen, we love hearing from you!
- 2 pounds kabocha pumpkin (about half a large one)
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon Sugar
- 3 Tablespoons Mirin
- ½ teaspoon dashi powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Put the kabocha on a stable surface, either a cutting board with a damp towel under it to keep the board from moving, or just a damp towel, which is what I prefer. Use a sharp paring knife or any small knife and cut around the stem to remove it.
- Put your knife in the middle of the kabocha where you just removed the stem and cut down into the kabocha. (You can put the pumpkin on the floor and do it this way if you’re having trouble. You will have better leverage this way).
- Flip the kabocha around and cut into it the same way. Repeat this as needed until you can cut the kabocha in half. Save the other half for another recipe.
- Scoop out the seeds and discard (or roast them on a baking sheet with a little oil) .
- Carefully put the cut side down and peel off the green skin, using small shallow cuts with a sharp knife. (You can also skip this step if you prefer to leave your pumpkin unpeeled).
- Slice the kabocha into thick slices and then cut across the cut to yield 1 ½ inch chunks.
- Place the kabocha into a medium pot and add the water, sugar, mirin, dashi powder, and salt.
- Bring the kabocha to a simmer over medium high heat. Stir to mix the cooking liquid and distribute the kabocha evenly in the pot. Cover with a lid and lower the heat to medium.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes, checking occasionally that the liquid has not all cooked off. Add a little more water as needed to keep the pot from being dry.
- The kabocha should be very tender and easily pierced with a fork and there should be very little liquid remaining in the pot.
- Serve Simmered Kabocha immediately.
*This recipe still tastes good if you don’t have the mirin or dashi powder. Add a little more salt or sugar to taste as needed.
*You can of course use homemade dashi as well. Substitute 1/3 cup of homemade dashi for the water and continue with the recipe. I would not recommend using regular chicken or vegetable stock as it has too many other flavors. Use only water and adjust the seasonings instead.
*This kabocha tastes great hot, room temperature, or cold. Store any leftovers in the fridge and eat within several days.
Keywords: kabocha, pumpkin, japanese, quick,
I love curries of all kind, but Japanese curry holds a special place in my heart. I especially love this Japanese Chicken Curry. While there’s no shame in using Japan’s famous packaged curry blocks, like in this Beef Curry, I realize not everyone has access to them and I thought it would be fun to make it from scratch. And the results were mind-blowing! If you stay away from curries because you worry they will be too spicy, Japanese curries are the way to go. They have a rich and complex flavor with a touch of sweetness, but not a fiery heat. This recipe might be a little longer than most of my others, but it’s straightforward and can be made ahead; it’s even better the next day!
Japanese curry is probably one of the most common foods made at home. There are plenty of Japanese Curry Houses to dine at in Japan, and each restaurant has a secret blend to create their signature flavor. But Japanese curry is so beloved, easy to make, and economical, that it’s probably one of the most popular dishes to make at home. It’s essentially a stew that is thickened and flavored with a roux. Thicker and less intense than Indian curry, Japanese curry has more of a gravy texture.
Most people use roux blocks to make Japanese curry because of the convenience and ease. There are very decent brands on the market plus let’s be real, curry requires A LOT of ingredients to make. So I usually end up blending two different brands and adding a couple of different ingredients to give my curry that twist. But making curry from scratch is healthier, can be customized for any dietary restrictions, and allows you the freedom to include whatever you like in your curry. Roll up your sleeves and let’s get started!
Japanese Chicken Curry Roux
Japanese curry is flavored using a roux which is a combination of butter and flour. We’re making a medium roux. It’s not as dark as say roux for gumbo, but it’s definitely not a pale roux either. Cooking the roux to a medium color gives it a toasty, butterscotch flavor that will add significantly to the curry flavor profile. This takes a little time, so don’t rush it. Roux tends to burn if you’re not paying attention, so park yourself in front of the stove and keep a close watch.
Once the roux is done, we add the spices and stir them in to flavor the roux. The heat and fat from the roux also perk up the spices and bring out their flavor. I start by using a standard mild curry powder because it’s the easiest to find. But a Japanese brand of curry powder like S&B would be even better. But that’s not all. An amazing Japanese Curry requires more than just curry powder, which by itself can be a little one dimensional. So in addition to the curry, we add garam masala, an Indian spice blend to give it a boost, some bay leaves for earthiness, more ground black pepper, and some unconventional ingredients that you probably wouldn’t expect: cocoa powder and instant coffee.
So I know you’re thinking- what? why? But hear me out. Have you ever had mole? It’s an amazingly complex and intense Mexican sauce that’s like a curry in that it blends a bunch of different spices together. One of the ingredients is dark chocolate. You don’t notice it, it just adds depth and richness. And that’s what it does here too. Likewise with the coffee. You’re not including huge amounts of these ingredients, but I wouldn’t skip them.
The roux starts out like a thick paste but it gets thinner as it cooks. Keep stirring the roux while cooking so it doesn’t stick to the pan or burn.
When it’s combined I remove the roux (which will smell AMAZING!) from the heat and set it aside.
Prep the Rest of the Japanese Chicken Curry Ingredients
Japanese Chicken Curry is a one pot meal, with veggies simmered along with the chicken and curry gravy. I get everything prepped before starting to cook. I show a couple of different cutting techniques below but the most important point is to keep your ingredients around the same size so everything cooks evenly and finishes cooking around the same time.
Then I cut the chicken and I’m ready to put it all together!
Cooking Japanese Chicken Curry
When the chicken is nicely browned on both sides, I remove it from the pan and set it aside. We sauté the thin cut onions, letting then cook and soften. The onions will pick up all of the cooked chicken juices which are stuck to the bottom of the pan. This fond will give your curry a ton of flavor so make sure you get it all. These cooked onions will essentially melt into your curry, giving it body and depth.
Now it’s time to incorporate the curry roux that we made!
Then the Japanese Chicken Curry gets gently simmered until the chicken is cooked through and the curry is a thick gravy consistency, about 15 minutes. This curry is wonderful served with steamed rice, and is even better the next day. I can’t wait for you try it and let me know what you think! And don’t forget to tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen, we love seeing your creations.
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 2 Tablespoons oil
- 2 large carrots
- 2 large onions
- 1 pound boiling potatoes (any kind you like yukon gold, red bliss)
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 Tablespoon peeled minced ginger
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 Tablespoons Ketchup
- 2 Tablespoons Japanese worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
- 5 Cups Chicken Stock
- Salt and pepper to taste (I added 2 teaspoons)
For the Curry Roux:
- 8 Tablespoons Butter (1 Stick)
- 3 ounces flour
- 4 Tablespoons Japanese Curry Powder
- 2 Tablespoons Garam Masala
- 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee
- 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Steamed Rice
Make the Roux:
- Put a medium heavy bottomed pot over medium heat and add the butter.
- When the butter is melted, add the flour.
- Cook the butter flour for approximately 15 minutes, turning down the heat to medium low after the first 5 minutes.
- Stir regularly with a spoon or whisk (the roux will burn if don’t watch it closely), until the roux is a medium brown color.
- Add the curry powder, garam masala, cocoa powder, instant coffee, ground black pepper, and cayenne powder.
- Stir until the spices are thoroughly mixed and then add the garlic, ginger, and bay leaves.
- Stir to combine.
- Turn off the heat and set aside.
Prep the ingredients:
- Trim and peel the onions. Cut the onions in half.
- Then cut one onion into thin slices and the other into thick slices.
- Peel and trim the carrots.
- Roll cut the carrots into 1 ½ inch wedges by cutting on an angle, then rolling and cutting.
- Wash the potatoes. You can either peel the potatoes or leave the skins on.
- Cut the potatoes into a large dice.
- Cut the chicken into large 2 inch pieces.
Make the Curry:
- Heat a large heavy bottom pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the oil and swirl the pot to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Add the chicken in a single layer and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
- Let the chicken cook untouched for two minutes to brown it, and then flip the pieces and brown the other side for another 2 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the pot and add the onions and a sprinkle of salt. Add another Tablespoon of oil if the pot seems dry.
- Let the onion cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally so it caramelizes.
- Add carrots, potato, and chicken stock to the pot.
- Bring the pot to a simmer over high heat and skim the surface for impurities.
- Lower the heat to medium and cover the pot with a lid.
- Continue skimming a couple times while the curry cooks.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Use a skewer or the tip of a knife to check.
- Turn the heat off of the pot and gently ladle ½ cup of the hot liquid into the roux.
- Whisk the roux until it is smooth and then pour the roux into the pot, whisking as you pour it.
- Add the ketchup, worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar.
- Add the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot.
- Turn the heat back to medium and gently simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
- The curry should be the consistency of gravy. Add a little more chicken stock or water if it seems thick.
- Taste the curry and adjust the seasoning with a little salt or soy sauce as needed.
- Simmer for 5 additional minutes on medium heat.
- Ladle Japanese Chicken Curry over hot rice and serve immediately.
*Curry is better the second day. Reheat curry covered with a lid over medium-low heat gently to keep it from burning or microwave on medium heat for several minutes. It also freezes extremely well. Freeze individual servings. Defrost before heating.
Keywords: curry, japanese, chicken, comfort food, dinner,