When I lived in Japan for 2 years I was introduced to many delicious foods. One of my most distinct food memories is of a hot, piping Kabucha (Japanese Pumpkin) soup I had in Nagano Prefecture after a very cold day of skiing. As is common in Japan, this was a small restaurant which was famous for and served almost nothing other than this flavorful soup, so the entire restaurant was filled with the warmth and sweet smell of the soup when we entered. The combination of this warm, flavorful, and healthy soup with a cold Sapporo (Japanese lager), was beyond heavenly. I've never been able to find a recipe for this soup online or in a Japanese cookbook, but I think I've recreated it pretty faithfully. My friends who had this at our house during Game 2 of the World Series all raved about it. Hopefully you will too!
- 2-3 tsp Hon Dashi
- 6-8 cups water
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup Mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
- 1 cup Sake (optional, but nice to have)
- 1 large Kabucha winter squash (aka Japanese Pumpkin)
- 16-20 dried Shitake mushrooms
- 1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger root, diced
- Cut the Shitake mushrooms in a bowl, cover with hot water, and then cover the bowl and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, peel and chop the Kabucha into 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks. My technique is to cut the Kabucha in half by stabbing a chef's knife into the middle, then working my way in a circle to cut the Kabucha in half. then I put each side, open side down onto a cutting board and do the same thing to cut it in quarters. Then I roughly peel the quarters using the chef's knife, not worrying if I leave skin on. The Kabucha tastes good with no peeling (the skin is edible when it is soft), so you don't need perfection. But peeling a little will help make it softer and more delicate, like peeling a potato.
- Put 6-8 cups of water and the Hon Dashi in a large soup pot (or substitute 6 cups of vegetable broth and 2 cups of water) and put over high heat. Put the Kabucha chunks in the pot. Add the soy sauce, Mirin, and Sake. When the soup starts boiling, lower to a low simmer.
- Remove the Shitake mushrooms from the bowl and add all the mushroom infused water from the bowl to the pot. Cut the Shitake mushrooms into quarters or halves depending on the size, and remove the stems if you like your mushrooms very soft (my wife removes them, I don't ). Add the cut mushrooms to the pot.
- Peel the ginger root slice and then dice into small pieces and add it to the pot.
- The pot should simmer about 15-20 minutes or until the Kabucha is soft (but not disintegrating). Taste for flavor. The soup should be salty, sweet, and somewhat spicy from the ginger. If it is out of balance in any direction, add more soy for saltiness, more mirin for sweetness, or more ginger for spice.
- Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. The soup is best served very warm, but not piping hot.
- Shopping advice: All of these ingredients are available in a large supermarket (at least in California). You'll need to go to the Asian section for Dashi and Mirin. Sake may be there or in the alcohol section. The dried shitake will probably be there as well. Kabucha can be found among the winter squashes in produce. It looks like a squat, green pumpkin with a rough skin. I always by a large piece of ginger and keep it frozen. It's easy to dice frozen ginger, it tastes as good as fresh, and it lasts almost forever. Dashi is a great base for any fish or vegetable soup (it's granular fish stock), so pick up enough to have around. If you're strictly vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth.
|Amount Per Serving||%DV|
|Serving Size 226g|
|Recipe makes 12 servings|
|Calories from Fat 1||1%|
|Total Fat 0.11g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0.01g||0%|
|Trans Fat 0.0g|
|Total Carbs 5.75g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber 1.2g||4%|