Kanpyo is an indispensable ingredient in Futomaki (thick-roll) sushi rolls. Although it appears plain and nondescript, being thin and stringy with no body, when you know more about kanpyo, I guarantee that you will love it and want to eat more of it.


What is Kanpyo?

Kanpyo is the shaved flesh of the bottle gourd dried into thin strips. The white, tidy flowers of the bottle gourd bloom on a summer evening and wither overnight. Contrary to this fleeting image, the vines are full of vigor growing as tall as 20 meters, and the flesh is said to grow as big as 6 to 7 kg. (13 to 15 lbs.). The bottle gourd originated in the tropical regions of Africa/Asia. Japan is the only country where kanpyo is traditionally eaten. People in other parts of the world dry the gourds for use as containers and/or pieces of art. Kanpyo has been consumed in Japan as food from ancient times. In the Edo Period (1603-1868), it was treasured by the upper classes as a refined food. It can be said that kanpyo is a valuable, appealing food which carries history and tradition spanning over three hundred years.

How is Kanpyo Prepared?

Kanpyo used to be made by peeling by hand but nowadays, it is sliced by rotating a machine with a planer. Its standard measurements are about 3cm wide and 3mm thick. Peeling is done between 3AM and 7 AM, after which it is sun dried. On a fine day, it can be dried in a single day.

Nutritional Value

Kanpyo is rich in calcium and iron. It has a lot of plant fiber, which prevents illness by increasing lactobacillus bifidus in the intestines and suppressing the rise of blood cholesterol. Because it expands after you eat it, kanpyo is recommended for improving digestion. It is also used in weight-loss diets.


To prepare kanpyo, rinse lightly, add salt (one teaspoon), and rub it till it softens. (An easy way to rub the kanpyo with salt is to use a cutting board like a washboard.) After rinsing out the salt, squeeze out the moisture, and boil in ample water till it softens. Drain the kanpyo after it is boiled.

Kanpyo with no additives can be rinsed quickly, then immersed in plenty of water for about ten minutes to rehydrate. You can skip the process of rubbing the kanpyo with salt and cook it any way desired.

How to Cook Kanpyo

It is convenient to have kanpyo cooked/seasoned and kept in the refrigerator. Then it is ready to roll into sushi.

Light Kanpyo Roll Recipe

Kanpyo Roll

Ingredients (Serves 4 rolls)

  • 2 oz. (50g) of seasoned kanpyo
  • 1 cup of cooked sushi rice
  • 2 sheets of yaki-nori (toasted seaweed)
  • Dash of yukari (red perilla sprinkle)

Cooking Directions

  1. Cut each sheet of toasted seaweed in half to make four equal sheets. Sprinkle yukari into the sushi rice and mix.
  2. Place one seaweed sheet on a sushi mat toward the front. Spread 1/4 of the sushi rice on the sheet and top with kanpyo. Roll by folding the ingredients away from you, applying gentle force until the roll is complete.
  3. Cut the roll into four pieces with a knife soaked in water and serve.

Kanpyo Chips Recipe

Kanpyo Chips

Ingredients (easy to use amount)

  • 1 oz. of kanpyo (dried)
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • Dashes of potato starch, salt, pepper
  • Cooking oil

Cooking Directions

  1. Rinse the kanpyo. Place it in a bowl, and sprinkle with the salt. Rub the kanpyo with both hands for one minute till it gets supple. Let it rest for 5 minutes or so.
  2. Wash out the salt from 1) and cook in enough boiling water till the kanpyo becomes soft enough to shred with your fingers. (Approximately 20 to 30 minutes)
  3. Rinse 2) under cold running water and drain the water.
  4. Cut the kanpyo into about two-inch strips and squeeze out the moisture with a paper towel.
  5. Sprinkle potato starch on both sides of the strips while you heat a frying pan with oil. Fry the kanpyo strips in the oil over medium-to-high heat till they become golden brown.
  6. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the fried kanpyo strips.

Gochiso Magazine, Nijiya Market

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