October is finally here, though fall decorations have been seen for many months already. What do most people think of during this season? For many, orange pumpkins are almost synonymous with October and fall, whether as Halloween decorations or sweet treats like pumpkin pie. What about green pumpkins though, or kabocha? Here’s something new and versatile to add to your recipe books.
Green Pumpkins Steal the Show
Kabocha is a variety of winter squash, commonly referred to as Japanese pumpkin or kabocha squash. They are smaller than the traditional orange pumpkins many are familiar with, and have a hard, rough outer skin that ranges from pale to dark green. The bright orange insides are very sweet, similar to chestnuts or sweet potatoes. Available all year round, it is a very popular ingredient in Japan and can be used in many ways. Let’s take a look at five, delicious ways to cook kabocha.
Tips for Cooking Kabocha
1. Use a sharp knife. The skin is edible, but hard to cut up. Removing or leaving the skin depends on the dish, and these will be noted accordingly below. Remove the seeds as well.
2. Microwave before using to make it softer and easier to work with.
3. Fresh kabocha can last for months if stored properly. They are best kept in cool, dark places such as a pantry or a counter that is out of the sun. They may also be refrigerated, but that sometimes results in a change of flavor, and it does not extend its shelf life by much. You can freeze cooked kabocha to make it last even longer.
Pumpkin soup is delicious and colorful, a welcome sight at any dinner party. For the sweet Japanese version, first remove the outer skin. Cook with butter, onions, water, chicken broth, and milk for a thick, fragrant soup. Blend or puree until there are no visible chunks and season as desired.
Due to the similar texture and consistency, kabocha is often used in place of or in addition to potatoes. It is frequently found in stews, hot pots, or nimono, which are simmered dishes. For nimono, kabocha chunks are simmered in a mixture of soy sauce, dashi, sugar, salt, and mirin or sake. Next time, try adding some Japanese pumpkin to your hearty winter stew. Leave the skin on, though.
Kabocha makes a nice, bright addition to any stir-fry dish. Chunks are harder to cook thoroughly, so thin sticks or slices are preferable. Cut them to your desired shape and size, then add to the rest of your ingredients. Leave the skin on, but you can cut away the sharp edges at the corners to help the kabocha keep its shape.
Dip kabocha slices in tempura batter to make a light, crispy tempura. Pureed or mashed kabocha is also popular in croquettes, either on their own or mixed with vegetables or meat. Leave the skin on for kabocha tempura, but remove when using it as a puree or mash.
Finally, we’ve arrived in the realm of pumpkin pie and pumpkin pudding. Kabocha can be made into a variety of desserts, such as the aforementioned pudding. Simply scoop out the fleshy insides and puree. They can also be made into assorted cakes or cookies, though pies are rare. For added appeal, use the outer skin as a mold and bake the cake in it.
Japanese pumpkins are nutritious and easy to use, perfect for appetizers, main dishes, or dessert. Though not suitable for carving jack-o’-lanterns, they are great as an all-around ingredient.