Why It Works
- Leaving space between squash pieces ensures even roasting.
- The combination of butter, soy sauce, and shichimi togarashi gives the dish a rich, umami-inflected spice.
Sweet and tender roasted kabocha squash seasoned with the modern Japanese combination of soy sauce and butter is delicious on its own, alongside a salad for a light lunch, or as a side dish for a heartier meal.
Soy sauce and butter is one of my favorite flavor combinations. It's all about balance: The two go hand in hand, with the richness of the butter mellowing the saltiness of the soy sauce and, conversely, the saltiness of the soy sauce cutting the richness of the butter.
The sauce is great with almost everything—pasta, fried rice, salmon, beef; in Japan you'll even find it in flavoring packets served with your McDonald's french fries—but it's especially wonderful on vegetables. In the summer months, I like to drizzle it on grilled corn and sprinkle nori flakes and scallions on top. When the weather gets colder, I like to combine it with sweet and intense kabocha squash. Roasted, its flavors all intensify and the texture becomes creamy and satisfying.
This side dish is easy and quick to prepare, and looks great on the holiday table. A sprinkle of shichimi togarashi—a Japanese seven-spice blend made with chili, sesame, orange zest, and more—adds some heat to the mix, though a pinch of red pepper flakes will do the trick as well.
Preparing the Kabocha for Roasting
Wash the squash (using a vegetable peeler to remove any unwashable spots of dirt), then split the kabocha in half and use a metal spoon to scrape out the seeds and pulp. You can roast the seeds or discard them.
Kabocha has thin, tender skin that can be eaten as-is. All you have to do is dice the flesh into bite-sized chunks.
- 1 large skin-on kabocha squash, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 2 pounds; 907g))
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml)soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon (28g) butter
- 1/2 teaspoon shichimi togarashi (see note)
- Kosher salt
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 400°F. In a small saucepan or microwaveable bowl, combine soy sauce and butter and heat until melted. Place squash in a large bowl and drizzle with soy sauce/butter mixture and togarashi.
Spread the squash in an even layer on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Make sure there is a bit of space between each piece so that they can brown and cook evenly from all sides.
Transfer to oven and roast until tender and starting to brown gently, 20 to 25 minutes.
Season to taste with salt (if necessary) and serve immediately.
Shichimi togarashi is a Japanese seven spice blend. It can be found in Asian markets or purchased online.