Simmered Kobocha Squash
I’ve been toying with the idea of bringing bentos to school for lunch.
That’s right, bentos.
Those Japanese-type of colourful boxed lunches (with some special containers that come with a slot for your pair of chopsticks and a compartment for an ice pack to keep your lunch cool even by the time you eat it) that take packed lunch to a whole new dimension altogether. It’s only recently that this bento craze has been circulating the far reaches of the blogosphere thanks to Just Bento (such a lovely site and a good read), and in between gawking at Mickey Mouse-shaped slices of carrot and getting completely mind-boggled at seaweed cut-outs of Barrack Obama, I must admit that I thought these people utterly crazy.
Well obviously it’s time-consuming.
Planning meals, buying ingredients, cooking ingredients, stocking up on rice and other foodstuffs that can be frozen or refrigerated, preparing that boxed lunch every day…
That’s like telling me to go grow wheat and make my own corn flakes.
But hey, who knew that throwing together a few liquids and cubes of pumpkin, letting it blip away on the stove while you go grow your wheat plantation would taste so darn good?!
And this recipe’s completely bento-friendly, nomnom-ish yummy out of the fridge – especially out of the fridge – and so easy you’d begin to get curious about the other possible, quick-fix dishes that the Bento Realm has come up with while you were chowing on listless, dull kopitiam food.
Squash(ed) in a pan.
You don’t have to use Japanese Kobocha squash (about $4-5 for half of a medium-sized pumpkin that I got from NTUC Finest), any type of pumpkin will do. Of course the texture and colour will differ, and some pumpkins have skin so thick you may need to peel them off with a sharp knife. That’s the reason I prefer Kobocha, or the similar ones with yellow/orange flesh and green skin that come from Malaysia. The skins are thinner and give a slight bite that’s a pleasant contrast to the soft flesh.
I made a Tupperware worth of the Kobochas on a whim, showered them with sesame seeds, kept it in the fridge and snacked on the cubes when I felt peckish. All I can say is that, golly!, all that’s missing is a lovely bowl of starchy, chewy Japanese rice (cold, it has to be cold.) and some green tea.
As long as anything tastes good cold, it’s destined for a bento.
Could I possibly be a Bento Convert?
Maybe I could do tiny star-shaped pumpkin pieces…
Simmered Kobocha Squash
recipe adapted from Just Bento
- 1/2 Kobocha squash (or any other kind of pumpkin)
- 1 cup Dashi Stock* (see Notes)
- 2 tbs sake
- 2 tbs mirin
- 2 tbs soy sauce ( I use Kikkoman Japanese soy sauce)
- sesame seeds
1. In a large pan, combine all the ingredients, liquids and squash alike, and bring to a boil.
2. Lower heat to medium and let simmer for about 15 minutes till the liquid has reduced to a point where the bottom of the pan is visible in certain areas (less than half the volume of liquid there was initially).
3. The squash will have darkened a little from absorbing the liquid. Let it cool before refrigerating, packing into a lunch box. Sprinkle with some sesame seeds before serving. It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.
* I purchased a box of instant powdered dashi that comes in little sachets that can be found in almost any grocery store. For 1 cup of warm water, use 1/2 a teaspoon of dashi powder and keep the rest of the sachet for other uses. Dissolve the dashi powder in a cup of warm water before adding to the pan.
Instant Dashi Stock