Bento fillers: Forgotten vegetable kinpira


Easy sugarfree carrot kinpira is one of the most popular recipes here on Just Bento. And no wonder - it's a snap to make, healthy, and spicy.

While kinpira is traditionally made with carrots and burdock (gobo) in Japan, you can use the kinpira method for any crunchy vegetable. What's more, it's a great way of using up parts of vegetables that you might normally throw away. Not only will your tastebuds and tummy be happy, your wallet will be too.

Broccoli stalk kinpira


Do you just cut off the florets of broccoli and throw away the thick woody stems? What a waste! Broccoli stalks are perfect for kinpira.

  • 2-3 broccoli stalks (resulting in about 2 cups of matchstick stalks). You can add the leaves too.
  • 1 Tbs. dark sesame oil
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. black or white (light brown) sesame seeds

If the broccoli stalks are very hard and woody, peel off the skins with a vegetable peeler or knife, and cut off the dried hard end. Slice into thin matchsticks.

Heat up a frying pan or wok with the sesame oil. Add the broccoli stalks and toss around until crisp-tender, about 4 to 5 minutes depending on how skinny the matchsticks are. Add the red pepper flakes and toss some more. Add soy sauce, toss toss. Add the sesame seeds near the end. (You may notice this is identical to the way carrot kinpira is cooked.)

Curry flavored cabbage stalk and ribs kinpira


The thick stalk part inside a cabbage is also an unloved part of this most versatile vegetable. Sliced into matchsticks, it too makes great kinpira. Here I have given it spicy curry-like twist, but you can make them in the standard kinpira way (see broccoli stalk recipe) too. You can get the spices at any Indian or South Asian market.

  • Cabbage stalk and ribs/leave resulting in about 2 cups of cut up cabbage
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. kalonji or nigella ('black onion') seeds

Cut the cabbage stalk and ribs into thin matchsticks.

Heat up a frying pan or wok with the oil. Add the cabbage and toss around until crisp-tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the spices and salt, and toss around until well coated.

Celery stalk kinpira


A lot of people never think about cooking celery stalks, unless it's to add to a soup or chowder. Cooked celery is crunchy and delicious as it's full of umami. This is a very simple kinpira where the flavor of the celery and the olive oil really shines through. You can use the tougher outer stalks that might not be suitable for salads.

  • Celery stalks resulting in about 2 cups cut up
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • salt

Cut the celery on the diagonal into thin slices.

Heat up a frying pan or wok with the oil. Add the celery and toss around for just a couple of minutes. Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.

Some other vegetables you could use for kinpira

  • Peppers
  • Daikon radish
  • Turnips
  • Parsnips
  • Rutabaga
  • Kohlrabi
  • Swiss chard stalks
Last modified: 
30 Aug 2019 - 17:09

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