Ever since, I went to the wonderful Thai temple brunch at Wat Mongkolratanaram a few weeks ago, I've been lusting after a delicious curried pumpkin that I sampled there. I was especially curious to find out what kind of pumpkin it was as it had a unique flavor and consistency and a delicate green skin.
I found several references to kabocha, a type of winter squash commonly known as "Japanese pumpkin" that is prized for its sweet, mild flesh and its pleasing consistency which is both dense and fluffy, similar to a chestnut or sweet potato. As you can see from my photo below, kabocha are charmingly squat in shape and sport a dark green skin with light green stripes and spots.
I also learned that there are tons of kabochas grown here in California although the vast majority of them are exported to Japan where they are a popular ingredient in vegetable tempura and other dishes. But once I knew what to look for, it was no problem to find one (organic, no less.)
Although I could not find the highly addictive curried pumpkin recipe, I did find a simple recipe for simmered sweet kabocha - a popular snack food in Japan where it is eaten both warm and cold. I gave it a shot last night and loved it! The squash has a lovely, rich flavor, pleasing texture, and cheerful color.
This is good as a snack food but it also goes well with a more complete meal. For dinner last night, I made the sweet simmered kabocha with basmati rice and a stir-fry of red cabbage, spinach, grassfed organic beef, scallions, garlic and ginger, and sprinkling of cilantro. Very tasty!
The only downside to these kabochas is that they are really HARD! Both the skin and the flesh are quite tough and it took quite a while and a good deal of effort (not to mention a huge cleaver) to get it peeled and cut into one-inch cubes. But the end result was definitely worth it. Try it and let me know what you think.
Update: If you use a smaller kabocha and the skin does not seem very tough, you don't necessarily need to remove the skin - it's quite edible.
Simmered Sweet Kabocha
* 1 kabocha squash (2-3 lbs, should make roughly 6 cups of cubed squash)
* 1/2 - 1 cup water
* 3 Tbsp brown sugar
* 2 Tbsp soy sauce
* Pinch of salt
1. Cut the squash into four pieces and peel (it's normal for this to be quite challenging). If the skin looks good, you can leave some of it intact.
2. Scoop out the seeds and remove any stringy pulp that is left inside the pumpkin. Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes (I had to use a huge, heavy cleaver and bring it down with all my might to do this.)
3. Combine the water, soy, sugar and salt in a wide, shallow saucepan and add the cubed squash. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a low simmer.
4. Cook for about 15 minutes or until done (you should be able to easily stick a fork or chopstick into the flesh without it falling apart). The kabocha should have a chestnut-like texture. If there is too much liquid left in the bottom of the pan, remove the squash and reduce it until it's thickened, then pour it over the cubes of cooked Kabocha.
You might also like:
- Quick Coconut Vegetable Curry With Kabocha Squash & Swiss Chard
- Sage & Nut-Stuffed Delicata Squash
- Farro Salad with Roasted Winter Squash, Goat Cheese & Spinach