Among the many autumn treats I often eat at my in-laws’ home is kabocha no nimino (simmered pumpkin), made from pumpkins straight out of my father-in-law’s garden. That dish got me thinking about all the fun fall foods that are coming this way! Here are 5 super easy Japanese recipes for fall that are perfect for when you don’t know what to cook for dinner.
5 Super Easy Japanese Recipes For Fall
1. Kabocha no Nimono (かぼちゃの煮物)
The dish that inspired this list of 5 simple Japanese recipes. Kabocha no nimono, like practically every variety of nimono (simmered) dish is incredibly easy to make. Once you master this, you’ll be able to simmer veggies and even fish with little effort.
Simply cut the pumpkin into cubes after removing the seeds and pulp. Watch your hands as the rind is really tough!
Then, just add enough water to cover the cubes, and flavor with soy sauce, sugar, and mirin to taste. (I hardly ever keep mirin on hand so don’t worry if you don’t have any). Bring to a slow boil then simmer until pumpkins are soft enough to pierce with a chopstick.
Cover cubed pumpkin with water, add soy sauce, sugar, mirin to taste. Simmer til pumpkins are soft enough to pierce with a chopstick 😊 #dinner#japanesefood #easyrecipes pic.twitter.com/5uwNjdLLUu
— Teni Wada (@WadaTeni) 2018年10月7日
Japanese pumpkins are very versatile and kabocha no nimono is a great way to put them to use. Mash leftovers to make fillings for croquettes (batter covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried). Or, add raisins and cream cheese to make pumpkin salad (this is often on the menu at school!)
2. Kuri Gohan (栗ご飯)
Let me share a bit of Ibaraki pride: Kasama, a city in the middle of Ibaraki, produces most of Japan’s chestnuts. They even have a chestnut festival in late September/early October. (For more tasty treats from Ibaraki, see this post: Ibaraki’s Best Culinary Experiences: 10 Must-Try Food and Drinks.)
Chestnuts are a staple of sweets in Japan where you’ll often see them labeled as marron, a nod to the French influence on Japanese confectionery.
But when it comes to traditional Japanese sweets like yokan (羊羹) and manju (まんじゅ) and the dinner table, chestnuts are called kuri (栗). You’ll find them still in their shells at the supermarket or de-shelled and boiled at the convenience store.
If you want to make kuri gohan, make it easy on yourself and grab a package of pre-boiled or pre-shelled chestnuts, unless you have time to prep the chestnuts.
When using a rice cooker, rinse two cups of rice, then add the appropriate amount of water. Add the chestnuts and a dash of soy sauce and salt to the rice cooker and press “start!” Sprinkle black sesame seeds before serving.
3. Satsumaimo Gohan (さつまいもご飯)
Another “set it and forget it” fall recipe makes use of the satsumaimo, or Japanese sweet potato, a hearty starch that is rather delicious when stone roasted (yakiimo)..
All you need to do is wash the outer skin of the sweet potato (no need to peel it) then dice. Prep two cups for rice for the rice cooker, add diced satsumaimo, soy sauce and salt, and you’re done! Top each bowl with black sesame seeds for a picture perfect meal.
When I make satsumaimo gohan, I determine how much satsumaimo to prepare by looking at the size of the sweet potatoes on hand. If I’m making two cups of rice, then I’ll use half of a big potato or one whole thin one.
When I was a kindergarten teacher, I always looked forward to imo hori, or digging for sweet potatoes. Satsumaimo gohan made frequent appearances on the October and November the school lunch menu (and home dinner menu)!
4. Kinoko Gohan (きのこご飯)
Yes, another “gohan” recipe. See what I mean when I say these are easy dinner recipes?
In fact, these type of rice dishes are also known as takikomi gohan (炊き込みご飯), rice cooked in alongside other ingredients.
You could make nearly anything into takikomi gohan with just a few substitutions of veggies, starches, and fish.
For kinoko gohan, you’ll want to add dashi along with mirin and soy sauce to add depth to your meal.
To start gather 2 or 3 varieties of mushrooms (like matsutake, enoki, shimeji) and cut into bite-sized pieces. After rinsing 2 cups of rice, add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons mirin, and 300 ml of dashi, the top with mushrooms and set the rice cooker.
5. Matsutake no Osuimono (松茸のお吸い物)
The last dish I’ll introduce is matsutake no osuimono — matsutake in clear broth with tofu and mitsuba (Japanese parsley).
Matsutake are known as king of the fall dinner table in Japan, and are also known as pine mushrooms (because they are found at the foot of pine trees).
They are praised for the taste and rarity, making them an expensive addition to the dinner table. However, they are pleasantly aromatic with a wonderful taste to match, so just 1 stalk or even ½ stalk will do.
You’ll need about 400 ml of dashi, ½ a block of tofu*, mitsuba, mirin, sake, soy sauce, and salt to taste. Bring dashi to a low boil, then add tofu, matsutake and liquid ingredients. Top with chopped mitsuba before serving.
If you can’t get ahold of matsutake, try Matsutake no Aji. It can even be used with kinoko gohan and pasta, too.
Get it on Amazon Japan
When making takikomi gohan, let the rice soak in water for 30-60 min to better absorb the flavors of the ingredients.
From Hiro Mizukami on Twitter
Always add liquid ingredients according to the order of the “S row” (さ行) of Japanese syllables!
“さ さとう sugar
し しお salt
す す vinegar
せ しょうゆ soy sauce
そ みそ miso
Sugar must come before salt and soy sauce, or it remains salty after you add much sugar later on.”