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The sun is now slowly losing its power, the leaves on the trees are turning golden yellow and are blown down by the wind. Autumn is coming – and with it the pumpkin season begins again. At harvest festivals and farmers' markets, the orange giants are making an entrance: there are Hokkaido pumpkins in masses. Just this month, the food bloggers' Culinary World Tour stops in Japan – so I was looking for a recipe in which the pumpkin season could be combined with the theme of Japan. So at the weekend we had a pumpkin vegetable with Japanese flavors to the delicious beef steak. What can I say: it became a successful experiment!
Vegetable or fruit?
We think of the pumpkin as a vegetable – but did you know that it is lt. botanical categorization is a berry? Admittedly, sometimes an extraordinarily large berry. Within the pumpkins are divided into summer and winter pumpkins. To the latter, namely the winter pumpkins, belongs the most popular edible pumpkin in Germany: the Hokkaido pumpkin.
Where does the Hokkaido pumpkin come from??
The pumpkins as a whole experienced in recent decades undoubtedly by Halloween a hype – not only as decoration but also in our kitchen. Since the 90s, the Hokkaido pumpkins suddenly conquered the markets regularly in the autumn season. While my grandmother used the pumpkin only as a sweet and sour pickled vegetables, now more and more delicious pumpkin dishes appeared. But how did this conquest of the orange giants come about??
From Central and South America originate the predecessors of the pumpkins cultivated today, the archetype of the giant pumpkin comes from Argentina and Uruguay. However, the original fruits had so many bitter substances (cucurbitacin) that they were not suitable for consumption. Only through selective breeding, the current edible pumpkins were produced. From Central and South America, the pumpkin conquered North America and also came to Europe. In the 19. In the 19th century, the pumpkin variety "Hubbard", a winter squash, came from America to Japan and from this in the 30s of the 20th century, the Hokkaido pumpkin was developed. Finally, at the beginning of the twentieth century, through breeding, the Hokkaido pumpkin known today. Probably the eponymous island of the country plays a role in the naming that took place here.
There is also a green relative of the Hokkaido, the Kabocha pumpkin. It is creamy, nutty, somewhat more intense in taste than the close relative Hokkaido and reminiscent of chestnuts. This pumpkin variety is not yet very common in our trade, so I fall back in this recipe for pumpkin vegetables Japanese style on the ever-popular Hokkaido pumpkin.
Is it possible to eat the skin of the Hokkaido pumpkin??
One of the reasons why I like to use the Hokkaido for cooking is its easy preparation. The skin of this pumpkin only needs to be cleaned and can then remain on the pumpkin flesh. To do this, I put the pumpkin in the sink filled with clean water and brush it off thoroughly.
The skin of the Hokkaido becomes soft when cooking. It also contains a large amount of beta-carotene, which our body converts into vitamin A. Another argument for this delicious squash.
What is Kabocha no Nimono?
Behind the – admittedly very euphonious – name "Kabocha no Nimono" actually hides a quite simple pumpkin vegetable. The name also directly describes the method of preparation:
Kabocha is the Japanese name for pumpkin in general and at the same time also for a certain pumpkin species. However, the Kabocha pumpkin is not the orange-colored Hokkaido, which is very popular here, but a green pumpkin with orange flesh.
Nimono is the name for something cooked.
In order for the cooked pumpkin to become a Japanese-style pumpkin vegetable, it still needs some typical flavors of course. These contribute the other ingredients such as sake, soy sauce, mirin and dashi.
Kabocha no Nimono is very well suited as a side dish to meat or fish dishes. The pumpkin vegetable is also very good as an appetizer. It can be served hot or cold, just as you like it.
Where to buy the Japanese ingredients?
For this Japanese pumpkin vegetable you need some typical Japanese ingredients. Soy sauce, mirin and sake are no problem, you can find them in well-stocked larger supermarkets. I ordered the dashi broth online from a mail order company specializing in Japanese products. I resorted to soluble dashi broth, which then only needs to be infused with hot water.
This broth is made from bonito flakes, seaweed and water and is responsible for the umami taste of Japanese dishes. If you don't like it, you can replace it with vegetable broth, but the result will not be as aromatic.