Kabocha is an all-around great squash. It's great looking, with its knobby forest green exterior and vivid orange interior; it's great for you, chock full of vitamins and minerals; and it tastes fantastic, even sweeter than butternut squash. If those aren't enough reasons to love the Japanese pumpkin, some cultures even consider it to be an aphrodisiac.
This Kabocha Pumpkin Hot Pot from Japanese Hot Pots by chef Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat is a wonderful way to get familiar with kabocha. The kabocha in this dish breaks down slightly in the cooking process, enriching and thickening in the process. This hot pot is a great vegetarian dish, filled with sweet and satisfying chunks of kabocha, plenty of earthy mushrooms, and chewy udon noodles.
- Mushroom Stock
- 8 pieces dried shiitake mushrooms
- 5 cups water
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 2 (6-inch) pieces kombu
- 1/2 kabocha pumpkin (about 1 pound), seeded and cut into bite-size pieces
- 4 ounces daikon, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 3 small taro roots (about 1/2 pound), peeled and quartered lengthwise (cut quarters in half if more than 2 inches long)
- 1 medium carrot (about 4 ounces), peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 1 negi (Japanese onion) sliced on an angle into 2-inch pieces
- 4 ounces napa cabbage, sliced
- 3 1/2 ounces (100-gram package) shimeji mushrooms, trimmed and pulled apart
- 1 pound (2 blocks) frozen, precooked udon noodles, or 8 ounces dried
- Shichimi togarashi, for accent
To make the mushroom stock, combine the dried shiitake mushrooms and the 5 cups of water in a bowl, cover, and steep at room temperature for at least 5 hours. You can make this stock a day ahead of time. (Or, if you're pressed for time, you can steep it for just 1 hour, but the longer steep produces a much deeper flavor.)
When the mushroom stock is ready, drain the liquid and reserve both the stock and the reconstituted shiitake mushrooms. Remove and discard the mushroom stems and halve the caps. Set aside.
Prepare the broth by combining the reserved mushroom stock, soy, and mirin in a bowl.
Place the kombu on the bottom of a hot pot and pile the pumpkin, daikon, taro, carrot, negi, cabbage, shimeji mushrooms, and reserved shiitake mushrooms over it. Pour in the broth.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover the pot and add the udon noodles. Simmer until the noodles are tender, about 10 minutes more.
Transfer the hot pot to the dining table. Serve the ingredients together with the broth, accenting with shichimi togarashi.