Kanpyō is long, dried gourd strips. It’s a traditional Japanese ingredient cooked in a sweet-savory broth and used as an ingredient in futomaki, sushi rolls, chirashi sushi, or an edible string to tie foods together.
Kanpyo or kampyō (干瓢・かんぴょう) are dried thin strips of Lagenaria siceraria var. hispida, a white-flowered gourd. These long, thin dried strips are commonly used as an ingredient in sushi dishes, Nimono (煮物) simmered dishes, and Aemono (和物) marinated foods. Once cooked, they have a unique sweet and savory flavor.
What Is Kanpyo
Kampyo is the dried shavings of a calabash gourd. It resembles cream-colored ribbons. Most of the gourd grown in Japan comes from Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo.
Although the gourd originated in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia, Japan is the only country where kanpyo has been eaten since the Edo period (1603-1867). It is a valued and unique traditional food in Japanese cuisine.
It’s used in sushi dishes such as futomaki, as thin rolls called kanpyo-maki (かんぴょう巻き), and the pieces scattered on top of chirashi sushi. It’s also an edible string to bind foods, such as kombu rolls and mochi kinchaku (deep-fried tofu skins stuffed with mochi).
What Does It Taste
It has a sweet-savory taste from cooking in a soy sauce-based broth. It has a soft, fibrous, and slightly chewy texture.
How To Use
To prepare kanpyo, bring a pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse kanpyo under running water and drain well, then rub it with one teaspoon of salt. Rinse and drain well again. Once the water is boiling, add kanpyo and cook for three minutes. Transfer to iced water to stop cooking and squeeze out the water.
Depending on the recipe, you can rehydrate kanpyo directly in water for 15 minutes and drain. Quickly rinse it under running water and rub it with 1 tsp kosher salt. Rinse again and drain well.
You can also find seasoned kanpyo, which omits this cooking step. It’s much more convenient than cooking it from scratch.
Recipes with Kanpyo
Where To Buy
You can buy kanpyo unseasoned or seasoned at most Asian and Japanese grocery stores. The seasoned version tends to be much sweeter, but cooking down the dried strips is one less hassle.
How To Store
Store unseasoned or seasoned kanpyo like any dried food in a cool, dark place. Close the bag well once opened to avoid moisture. Keep seasoned kanpyo in the refrigerator once opened and use it quickly.
Kanpyo is rich in calcium, dietary fiber, potassium, and iron. Like other dried foods, such as kiriboshi daikon, the drying process concentrates its nutritional value. Low in calories and high in fiber, it is also great for those on weight-loss diets, is said to aid digestion by increasing good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract in the intestines and suppressing the rise of cholesterol.