Roasted Kabocha Soup (and a Christmas Story from Tokyo)

by Tokyo Terrace on December 24, 2009

Sometimes it is easy to forget how amazing living in a country like Japan can be. I never feel that I “fit in”, but I have become comfortable as an outsider. I find myself waiting for the train, looking in at the people sitting in the cars wondering what they are talking about, thinking about, or worried about. I wonder why they live in Tokyo. What do they do for work? What will they have for dinner tonight?

It’s funny. I’ve always been fond of people watching, but here I feel like I’m looking through train windows constantly. Looking at an entire culture that I don’t fully understand through a train window as I’m standing on the platform. In an instant I have to move on and start thinking about the next window. The next car. The next train.

During my first Christmas abroad, I am feeling a number of things. I long for my family to be close at this time of year. However, I am endlessly thankful for my wonderful husband and the time we have been able to share this holiday season. I miss snow. I miss crackling fire places and my Uncle Steve’s prime rib. Still, somehow, in the midst of a place so strange and unusual, I am able to find the Christmas spirit. In a country where 1% of the population are Christian, I have found the genuine reason to celebrate.


Tonight, Brad and I went to Ebisu and Roppongi to view some amazing Christmas light displays. We were both in awe of the sparkling lights giving a soft glow to the tall buildings of Tokyo. This was not, however, what put me in the Christmas spirit. What put me in the Christmas spirit was the small changes in everyone around us; seeing the hundreds of couples holding hands in public, smiling at strangers, and genuinely enjoying the spirit of the season. Whether they knew it or not.

I had not intended the recipe today to be tagged to a long story, but I had to share that experience with you all. There is always something new to be appreciated. No matter what your surroundings happen to be. Just take the time to look through those train windows.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programing…

So, to end this last post before Christmas Day, I bring you a classic recipe with a Japanese twist: Roasted Kabocha Soup. A Kabocha is a Japanese pumpkin. Roasting the Kabocha brings out a sweet, smoky flavor that is perfect for a hearty, healthy meal. This could even be a great addition to your Christmas Day spread as a simple, warming side dish.

Merry Christmas to you, my dear readers. Thank you for helping to make this year an amazing one! Here’s to the coming year!

Roasted Kabocha Soup

Serves 6

2 lbs Kabocha or other winter squash (such as acorn or butternut)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water, plus extra to adjust thickness at the end
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon honey
6 Tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F.

Cut the Kabocha in half, place in a baking dish and drizzle the cut sides with olive oil. Place in the oven and roast for about 1 hour. *Check occasionally to ensure it does not burn.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt the butter. Add the onions, carrot, and celery and cook over medium heat until softened. When the Kabocha is done, scoop it out of it’s skin and add it to the pot. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 30 more minutes over medium heat. After the 30 minutes is up, make sure the carrots have softened. If they need more time, give it to ‘em!

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is smooth. Add the white pepper, salt, curry powder, cayenne pepper, and honey. Season to taste with salt or other spices if necessary. If the soup is too thick, add more chicken broth.

Ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish each with a tablespoon of sour cream and a sprinkling of paprika and parsley. Serve immediately.

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  • Jan

    That was just beautiful. I sat here at my computer at work and cried a little. I know you two are having a wonderful Christmas together. Enjoy and be happy and rejoice. I love you both.

  • Jan

    That was just beautiful. I sat here at my computer at work and cried a little. I know you two are having a wonderful Christmas together. Enjoy and be happy and rejoice. I love you both.

  • http://kissmyspatula.com/ kms

    merry christmas, my sweet! all the best for the new year!

  • http://kissmyspatula.com/ kms

    merry christmas, my sweet! all the best for the new year!

  • Rebecca

    Sister – what a charming post. Who knew that tricky wind would pick you up and blow you so far away?
    Well, if you need me, I’ll be watching the Dolly Parton Christmas specials and waiting for this Minnesota Christmas blizzard to arrive.

  • Rebecca

    Sister – what a charming post. Who knew that tricky wind would pick you up and blow you so far away?
    Well, if you need me, I’ll be watching the Dolly Parton Christmas specials and waiting for this Minnesota Christmas blizzard to arrive.

  • Aunt J in Hendersonville

    That was beautiful, and beautifully written.
    Choked up reading it aloud to your Uncle Don.
    And then we toasted the two of you with mugs
    of hot mulled cider.
    Christmas in Tokyo may seem a bit…surreal?
    But you’ll never forget it.
    Hold hands a lot (that’s what we do, have
    done – and it works). :) :)
    Love you both.
    Merry Christmas!

  • Aunt J in Hendersonville

    That was beautiful, and beautifully written.
    Choked up reading it aloud to your Uncle Don.
    And then we toasted the two of you with mugs
    of hot mulled cider.
    Christmas in Tokyo may seem a bit…surreal?
    But you’ll never forget it.
    Hold hands a lot (that’s what we do, have
    done – and it works). :) :)
    Love you both.
    Merry Christmas!

  • http://www.sense-serendipity.blogspot.com/ Divina

    You’re home away from home but you made Japan a new home and I think Japan welcomes you with open arms. Thank God you have Brad to make this season meaningful. Pumpkin soup is always welcome. Merry Christmas to you both. :D

  • http://www.sense-serendipity.blogspot.com Divina

    You’re home away from home but you made Japan a new home and I think Japan welcomes you with open arms. Thank God you have Brad to make this season meaningful. Pumpkin soup is always welcome. Merry Christmas to you both. :D

  • http://wokstar.us/ Eleanor Hoh (WokStar)

    I love that you embrace where you live and adapt your cooking style to Japan. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  • http://wokstar.us Eleanor Hoh (WokStar)

    I love that you embrace where you live and adapt your cooking style to Japan. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  • http://www.MyLastBite.com/ mylastbite

    Merry Christmas to you! I’m looking forward to many, many more of your beautiful photos and recipes. Cheers! Jo

  • http://www.MyLastBite.com mylastbite

    Merry Christmas to you! I’m looking forward to many, many more of your beautiful photos and recipes. Cheers! Jo

  • tokyoterrace

    Thanks Jo! Merry Christmas to you as well :) You are so sweet, as always. Hope you had an enjoyable holiday!

  • tokyoterrace

    Thanks Jo! Merry Christmas to you as well :) You are so sweet, as always. Hope you had an enjoyable holiday!

  • tokyoterrace

    wokstar: Thank you so much for the comment! It is not easy at times, but totally worth it to take in every part of the place you call home- no matter where it is. Thanks for always having uplifting things to say here at Tokyo Terrace!

  • tokyoterrace

    wokstar: Thank you so much for the comment! It is not easy at times, but totally worth it to take in every part of the place you call home- no matter where it is. Thanks for always having uplifting things to say here at Tokyo Terrace!

  • tokyoterrace

    Divina: Thanks for the warm thoughts :) I hope you enjoyed your Christmas!

  • tokyoterrace

    Divina: Thanks for the warm thoughts :) I hope you enjoyed your Christmas!

  • tokyoterrace

    Aunt J: Thank you! It’s always a huge compliment when you, the author, like my writing. I love you and Don very much! Merry Christmas!

  • tokyoterrace

    Aunt J: Thank you! It’s always a huge compliment when you, the author, like my writing. I love you and Don very much! Merry Christmas!

  • tokyoterrace

    Thanks Rebecca! Glad you like it and I hope you try the soup :) And yes, that was a tricky wind that brought me halfway around the world…

  • tokyoterrace

    Thanks Rebecca! Glad you like it and I hope you try the soup :) And yes, that was a tricky wind that brought me halfway around the world…

  • http://www.lafujimama.com/ Fuji Mama

    You were in my old neck of the woods to see lights! I loved being in Japan for Christmas. We spent 2 Christmases there without going home. The 1st was our 1st Christmas after we got married and were too poor to fly home. The 2nd was right after the birth of Squirrel and neither of us could travel. They were wonderful Christmases. I think being so far away from family and “home” helps you to focus on the things most important in your life during the holiday season. Merry Christmas!

  • http://www.lafujimama.com Fuji Mama

    You were in my old neck of the woods to see lights! I loved being in Japan for Christmas. We spent 2 Christmases there without going home. The 1st was our 1st Christmas after we got married and were too poor to fly home. The 2nd was right after the birth of Squirrel and neither of us could travel. They were wonderful Christmases. I think being so far away from family and “home” helps you to focus on the things most important in your life during the holiday season. Merry Christmas!

  • tokyoterrace

    FujiMama: We loved being around this Christmas. Although, if we can help it, I think we’ll work hard to make it back to the states for the holidays. It was beautiful looking at the lights here and experiencing a Christmas that was so drastically different from what we know. I’m happy that we’ve had this experience but am excited for time at home next year with the fam. Merry Christmas to you and thanks for remaining a great connection. It’s so fun to have another “Rachael” who has gone through much of what I am right now.

  • tokyoterrace

    FujiMama: We loved being around this Christmas. Although, if we can help it, I think we’ll work hard to make it back to the states for the holidays. It was beautiful looking at the lights here and experiencing a Christmas that was so drastically different from what we know. I’m happy that we’ve had this experience but am excited for time at home next year with the fam. Merry Christmas to you and thanks for remaining a great connection. It’s so fun to have another “Rachael” who has gone through much of what I am right now.

  • http://earlkai.blogspot.com/ cocopuff1212

    When I run into obstacles here in France, I often think of you. I think to myself, “What would Rachael do?”

    After all, people here not only use the same alphabet (well, almost), but many of them also actually speak English. This isn’t as foreign to me as Japan must be to you.

    I’m sure there are days that are overcast (just like the ones I have), but you seem to carry sunshine with you where you go. What a gift that is.

    Merry belated Christmas, and Yoi Otoshio (have a great new year).

  • http://earlkai.blogspot.com/ cocopuff1212

    When I run into obstacles here in France, I often think of you. I think to myself, “What would Rachael do?”

    After all, people here not only use the same alphabet (well, almost), but many of them also actually speak English. This isn’t as foreign to me as Japan must be to you.

    I’m sure there are days that are overcast (just like the ones I have), but you seem to carry sunshine with you where you go. What a gift that is.

    Merry belated Christmas, and Yoi Otoshio (have a great new year).

  • http://wasabiprime.blogspot.com/ wasabi prime

    I love that you explored your home away from home and found its own Christmas spirit. I think the most meaningful holidays are ones where we strip away all the commercialism that tells us what we should be doing or buying, and just focusing on the simple, honest sentiments that give us time with our loved ones. Glad to see you had time with family at home, as well as special time in your second home, with your hubs. That sounds like a pretty magical holiday to me!

  • http://wasabiprime.blogspot.com wasabi prime

    I love that you explored your home away from home and found its own Christmas spirit. I think the most meaningful holidays are ones where we strip away all the commercialism that tells us what we should be doing or buying, and just focusing on the simple, honest sentiments that give us time with our loved ones. Glad to see you had time with family at home, as well as special time in your second home, with your hubs. That sounds like a pretty magical holiday to me!

  • http://www.tinyurbankitchen.com/ Jen@TinyUrbanKitchen

    I know this is a bit late, but that was a great post! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • http://www.tinyurbankitchen.com/ Jen@TinyUrbanKitchen

    I know this is a bit late, but that was a great post! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • http://www.tokyoterrace.com/2010/12/mulled-wine-with-japanese-citrus/ Mulled Wine with Japanese Citrus — Tokyo Terrace :: An American Foodie in Tokyo

    [...] Well, we have traveled from Tokyo to Seattle to Salt Lake City and finally to Denver, Colorado where we will be spending Christmas with my husband’s family. The jet lag has subsided (mostly) and we have been frantically shopping, wrapping, and soaking in our short time together. All is going as expected, aside from the fact that Denver is not the winter wonderland we were hoping for. Apparently all the snow is stuck elsewhere. Bummer. It’s funny because the mountains are within view and everyday we have seen the low clouds that are dumping huge amounts of the white stuff just 20 minutes away. It’s so close I can practically feel the sweet snow flakes melting on my tongue. I guess we’ll have to wait until we travel to Minnesota to experience the bright white beauty of winter. Still, the Christmas spirit has managed to wrap us in its warmth and wonder, just like it did last year. [...]

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