Thanksgiving Recipes for Japan and America

Thanksgiving is here! This year, it almost lines up with the Japanese holiday kinrou kansha no hi, which is Labor Thanksgiving Day. It’s a modern version of a harvest festival, and celebrates agriculture and farming. But it means that JCMU students get a holiday at almost the same time as American Thanksgiving, and American Thanksgiving is all about food. We’ve prepared a few recipes, which can be made in both the US and Japan, to help celebrate the most important meal of the year. This holiday weekend, go forth and eat good food!

The Main Course: Japanese Curry

Brown curry in a red bowl with rice and a bit of cheese on top
Curry and cheese go great together! Who’d’ve thought?

It’s not turkey, but some would say it’s even better. Curry is a staple of Japanese home cooking, which makes it good choice for a holiday that celebrates family and togetherness. A box of curry is just the roux that gives it flavor and thickness, and it has a recipe on the back that gives recommended amounts of everything you need to add. Really, though, you can add however much of something you want, depending on what you feel like eating. As long as it fits in the pot! Just remember to adjust the amount of roux accordingly.

  • Package of curry roux
  • Olive oil
  • Chicken, pork, or beef
  • Potato
  • Carrot
  • Onion

Chop up the meat, potatoes, and carrots into medium sized pieces. Chop the onion into large chunks.

Put the ingredients into a pot with enough oil to coat each piece, and stir over medium heat for about 3 minutes.

When the onions are soft, add enough water to just cover the ingredients, and cook over high heat for about 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat and break in the curry roux pieces. Stir until they are completely dissolved.

Turn on a low heat again and cook until the curry thickens. Take it off as soon as it reaches a consistency you like.

Serve over rice with katsu or cheese on top.

The Side Dish: Kabocha Two Ways

IMG_20171208_192558256
Add pepper, cinnamon, butter, and more!

Kabocha, or Japanese pumpkin, is a popular fall and winter food. There are tons of ways to prepare them, in both Western and Japanese style. Below are two popular and simple versions. Make one or make both, you and your guests will be happy with the result! You can find kabocha in any Japanese grocery store and in many American ones, too.

Roasted Kabocha

  • 1 kabocha (or a half, or a quarter)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Chop the kabocha in half, then quarters, and scoop out the guts. Then slice it all into 1-2 inch cubes.

Toss the cubes in a bowl with olive oil, a good sprinkling of salt, and a little bit of pepper. You can use as little or much as tastes good to you.

Lay the pieces out in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Roast for 20-30 minutes at 400ºF/200ºC, until the kabocha is soft and a little toasted.

Eat with butter, soy sauce, or other seasonings.

Kabocha no Nimono

Adapted from Just One Cookbook

  • 1/2 kabocha
  • 1 3/4 C dashi
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 T sake
  • 2 t soy sauce
  • Pinch of salt

Remove the guts from one half of a kabocha, then microwave the half for 2 minutes.

Cut the kabocha into 2 inch pieces, and place them in the bottom of the pot in a single layer. Either use a big enough pit to fit them all, or put the extras in the fridge for later.

Add the dashi, sake, and sugar. Remember, dashi often comes as a dry ingredient, so you need to follow the instructions on the box and turn it into a liquid before measuring it. Also, rather than using a spoon to stir the ingredients, just swirl the pot around to avoid breaking the pieces of kabocha.

Use medium high heat to bring it to a boil.

Add soy sauce and salt, and if the liquid doesn’t cover most of the kabocha, add a little water.

Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

After the kabocha is soft and well-cooked, remove the pot from heat and let it cool for about half an hour.

Serve in small bowls with sauce poured on top.

Dessert: Cinnamon Rolls

A cinnamon roll flanked by two loaves of bread.
This cinnamon roll could be yours.

You don’t see as many cinnamon rolls in Japan as you do in the US, but this recipe solves that problem. These pastries are sure to be a big hit at your table, and they make great gifts for teachers and friends. What even better is that the dough can be adapted to tons of other desserts, like polish kolaches, king’s cake, and more. What will you make?

  • 1 C milk
  • 1/2 C butter (115 g)
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 C salt

Heat milk, butter, and sugar together until butter just melts.

  • 2 C flour
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast (7 g)

Combine flour, sugar, and yeast.

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 C flour

Mix in eggs, then flour by hand. Add up to 1/4 C more flour if dough is sticky.

Once dough has come together, knead for 8 to 10 minutes until it is smooth. Place it somewhere warm (like in front of a space heater) for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it doubles in size.

Divide the risen dough into two pieces, and roll the first one out into a long rectangle. The long side will determine how wide your cinnamon rolls are, and the short side will determine how many you get.

Butter the front side of the dough rectangle, then cover it in cinnamon and brown sugar.

Roll the dough up into a tube, with the short side becoming the length. Then chop the tube into 1 1/2 inch segments, which will become the cinnamon rolls.

Place the rolls loosely in a baking pan, and allow them to rise for 30-45 minutes.

Bake them in the oven (or the microwave on its oven setting) for 10-15 minutes at 375ºF/190ºC.

Remove and let cool while you prepare the icing.

  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 1 T butter (15 g)
  • 1/4 t vanilla
  • 2 T milk

Mix these together and heat until smooth. Add more or less milk to adjust thickness.

Pour while warm over the cinnamon rolls, then share with friends and enjoy!


We at JCMU hope you all have a fun and delicious holiday, whether you celebrate with friends, family, farming, or food. We’re thankful for you! Happy Thanksgiving!

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