Kanpyo with checkered daikon and carrot カンピョウの市松

japanese cake
Kanpyo 干瓢, literally means “dried gourd”, is a rather common item used in Japanese cuisines. The meat of the gourd (a certain edible kind, I suppose) is peeled like a narrow tape and then dried. You can buy it, in this dried form, in a Japanese grocery store. I do not think it has much flavor by itself but, certainly, it will absorb any flavors in which it is cooked. It is often used as an edible tie to tie off something. For example, when I stuff a deep fried tofu pouch or abraage with a rice cake or “mochi” in my version of the New Year Soup, I use kanpyo to tie the pouch closed. It is also a common item to be included in scattered sushi “chirashi-zushi” ちらし寿司 or sushi roll “norimaki” のり巻き. To prepare kanpyo, you first wash, rehydrate (30 minutes or longer), and briefly (5 minutes) boil in water. After this, you could cook further a few different ways. If you are going to use this to tie off something, I will just use it without further cooking. The dish I am describing here is one of the rare dishes in which kanpyo is used as the main ingredient. After using kanpyo as a string/tie for another dish, I had a lot of unused kanpyo and decided to make this dish.  It is very subtle in flavor and a bit of a chore to make but it looks more “professional” than “home made”.

This dish is originally from a cookbook called (roughly translated into English) “Appetizers and a la carte small “idea” dishes for Izakaya” by Tadashi Shinojima. First, I make the center portion of the dish by cutting equally sized rectangular-shaped sticks of carrot and daikon measuring about 1/2 x 1/2 x 3 inches (2 each, total of 4) (for two small servings). Combining these sticks to make a checker board pattern on the end (this is called “Ichimatsu” 市松 pattern in Japanese which is named after a Kabuki actor in the late Edo period). I make sure the kanpyo ribbon is open and flat (not to be folded or twisted) and wrap this core of the carrot and daikon sticks, keep moving up and down so that the length of the carrot and dikon sticks are evenly wrapped. Use a butcher twine (or a more delicate thread if you prefer) to tie the end of kapyo. I simmer it gently with a “otoshibuta” 落とし蓋 in 2 cup of #2 or niban dashi, 3 tbs of mirin and (about) 2 tbs of light colored or “Usukuchi” 薄口 soy sauce for 30 minutes. Let it cool down in the broth to room temperature. For the sweet miso sauce, I mix 3 tbs of red miso, 3 tbs of mirin and 2 tsp of sugar in a small sauce pan on a low flame and stir until it reaches nice saucy consistency (for about 5 minutes). You should taste and, if needed, add more sugar. Cut the kanpyo roll into 4 equal disks and serve with the miso sauce. This is a rather classic Japanese dish; simple ingredients but lots of steps and time to prepare. It has a very subtle and pleasing flavors. Perfect accompaniment for sake.

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