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What is Kinpira?

By Celeste Heiter
Updated May 16, 2024
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Kinpira is a Japanese cooking method that includes both sautéing and simmering. This technique is most often used for cooking root vegetables, but it also can be used for cooking a variety of other ingredients. To make a classic kinpira dish, thinly sliced vegetables or other ingredients are first sautéed in an oiled skillet, then water is added to the pan and brought to a simmer. The pan is then covered, and the ingredients are allowed to continue simmering until they are nearly done. In the last few minutes of the cooking process, soy sauce, mirin and chili peppers can be added in order to flavor the simmering broth, and the excess liquid is allowed to simmer away until it is completely evaporated.

The most common kinpira recipe is kinpira gobo, a dish made with matchstick-cut burdock root and carrots, sautéed in sesame oil, simmered in water and seasoned with soy sauce, mirin and dried chilies. Other types of kinpira recipes might include root vegetables such as lotus root, yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips and turnips. Additional ingredients that can be added to kinpira dishes include meats, tofu, wheat gluten, various types of seaweed and miso paste. Kinpira vegetables are easy to make and will keep for several hours without refrigeration, so they are a popular component of Japanese bento boxes. Kinpira vegetables also can be combined with short-grain rice and used as a filling for sushi rolls called kinpira makizushi.

Kinpira-style foods are an important component of macrobiotic cooking. Kinpira gobo is especially favored for its yang qualities and is believed to help purify blood, build strength and increase stamina. It is high in Vitamins A, B6, B9, C and K, and it is rich in minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, iron, potassium and copper.

Contrary to common assumptions, the term "kinpira" does not literally translate as "sauté and simmer." The word is composed of kin, the Japanese character for gold or metal, and hira, the Japanese character for flat or even, which is pronounced "pira" when combined with another word. The names of many Japanese foods are associated with legends and folk tales. Kinpira refers to the ancient legend of a boy by the same name, the son of famed sumo wrestler Kintaro, both of whom were immortalized by Edo-era Japanese jyoururi theater performances. Kinpira was known for his superhuman strength and stamina and for his reputation for fighting evil.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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