Pumpkin Braised In Milk - Kabocha No Miruku Ni Recipe

"Soy sauce–spiked milk turns into the most delicious, soft curds in this silky sweet pumpkin dish, which seems an unlikely combination considering that milk has not long been a widespread part of Japanese cuisine.

In fact, until the 19th century, milk, like red meat, was taboo. Actually, milk and dairy products have been around since about the 7th century, but it wasn’t until the Meiji era, when the ban on animal products was officially lifted, that they began to flourish. By the 1950s, in a postwar recovery effort, milk became a part of the national school lunch program, which helped it become an everyday food.

Today, the place that is synonymous with fresh milk in Japan is Hokkaido, in the far north of the country, which has a climate and land more suitable for dairy farming than the humid, rugged and mountainous regions further south. It’s interesting to note that there are two ways to say milk in Japanese, one is written in kanji characters: gyunyu 牛乳, while the other is an adaption of the English word, miruku, and so it is written in katakana, the set of characters used only for foreign words:ミルク. The difference is that gyunyu is simply whole milk and miruku usually describes a milk product.

So, this is a rather unusual dish, but it is so delicious. The small, dark green–skinned kabocha (also known as Japanese pumpkin or squash) with bright orange flesh is best for this recipe because it is wonderfully sweet and nutty with a floury consistency that reminds me of chestnuts.

As it cooks, the edges soften and become incorporated into the creamy dressing. You could use butternut pumpkin (squash) or sweet potato as a substitute, but another reason I love Japanese pumpkin is that you can (and should) eat the skin. I have found the prized Italian pumpkin zucca mantovana is practically identical to a proper kabocha.

Like most simmered dishes in Japanese cuisine, gentle cooking is key, so that the pumpkin does not get mushy. But if you do go too far, have no fear: add a splash of rice wine vinegar and eat it cold the next day. It’s a rather welcome substitute to creamy potato salad, and

I have to admit perhaps my favourite way to have it. This would be ideal in a lunchtime bento box or as a side dish to some grilled fish or meat."

GOHAN: Everyday Japanese Cooking by Emiko Davies (Smith Street Books, £26) Photography: Yuki Sugiura

More: Read Emiko's exclusive Q&A with Sous Chef about the food of her childhood, and the ingredients that excite her


Ingredients for Soy-Spiked Pumpkin in Milk


How To Make Kabocha No Miruku Ni

  1. Chop the pumpkin into small chunks, about 2.5 cm (1 in) long. Remove the seeds but leave the skin on, which not only adds flavour and creates a nice contrast in colour and texture, but it also will help the pumpkin retain its shape.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients except for the vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook gently over a low heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes, then cover with a lid until the pumpkin is soft but not falling apart and the milk has turned into thick, creamy curds, faintly resembling ricotta, about 10 minutes.
  3. Serve warm or cold with a splash of rice wine vinegar stirred through, if desired.
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1 comment

  • Can I make this with squash that we find in supermarkets in UK? Or would it have to be Japanese pumpkin?

    charlotte davis on

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