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Bento Recipe: Steamed kabocha


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Kabocha are Japanese squashes that look like runty, dark green pumpkins. When you cut them open, the insides are yellow-orange and, for a squash, very sweet. It's also fairly versatile, turning up in vegetable dishes, soups, tempura, and so on.

To steam a kabocha, first scrub it with a potato scrubber so the skin is clean, then stick the entire thing in a steamer and steam it on medium high for about 10 minutes. Take it out and run a little cool water over it to cool it just to the point where you can handle it, then peel strips of its skin to give it a stripy appearance. Don't peel all of the skin off, as it's flavorful, not to mention that that would be hard to do because of its rough surface.

After that's done cut the squash in half, remove the seeds (which can become toasted kabocha seeds!), and cut the squash into bite-sized chunks, which for me is about a cubic inch. Put 'em back in the steamer and steam them on high for another two minutes, then lower the temperature and continue steaming for another 10 minutes or so. It's done when the pieces are tender enough to stick a fork into.

You can season the squash as you like before or after the final steaming. I've seen recipes that involved salt, olive oil, pepper, et cetera - but I think it's good just as it is, and I recommend making it au naturel at least once so you can get a feel for the flavor of the kabocha itself.