Kanpyo Calabash

Kanpyo Calabash_1 Kanpyo Calabash_2

When you last went out for some sushi, you might have seen a neat looking seaweed sushi roll sitting next to the gorgeous tuna and salmon rolls everyone was gunning for. Have you ever noticed the brown ingredient with an interesting textures that is inside that sushi roll? It is called Kanpyo.

Kanpyo are prepared dried shavings of calabash (a type of gourd) which are used as an ingredient in sushi. They are unique and delicious, and appear in many other Japanese dishes, such as stewed “Nimono” and marinated “Aemono” foods. When used for sushi, Kanpyo are flavored with dashi (broth), sugar, mirin (sweet cooking rice wine), soy sauce and other ingredients depending on the recipe. They are particularly efficient at ridding you of powerful ocean scent you might get from eating a lot of Sushi.

Do you know where these gourd shavings known as “Fukube” are grown? Fukube like to extend their roots and spread sideways, and they prefer a light soil with good drainage. That is why Tochigi prefecture is the perfect place to grow the gourd, as it has within its territory an area that is mostly made of volcanic ashes. This land has good water retention and the soil drains well. In addition, it is a zone famous for its heavy rain in the afternoon and frequent lightning. This helps cool down the surface of the soil from the heat of hot summer, prompting the generally weak root of the bottle gourd to heat. Kanpyo from Tochigi prefecture account for 98% of the production volume of Japan, making this a true specialty product of Tochigi prefecture.

The way to make Kanpyo is as follows. Early in the morning, we peel the skin of the Fukube into long strings, and do the same for its fruit. Then, we hang them over a bamboo pole and let them dry indoors. It is said that Kanpyo are like mushrooms in that when they are hanged to dry, their nutritional value increases. In the case, minerals, dietary fiber, iron, calcium, and potassium are condensed by drying the Kanpyo. They are also great for diets, because they will make you feel full quickly.

Because they are sold in dried condition, you have to soak Kanpyo in the water first before you cook them. Some people enjoy using them in Western-style salads because of their mild taste.


Photo by Tochigi Kanpyo Commerce Association

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