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Kabocha Squash

Winter squash is in season and the farmers’ market is awash in a large variety of squash in many sizes, shapes and colors. One such variety is kabocha squash, also known as the Japanese pumpkin. They typically have bumpy green skins with orange spots but there also are orange and yellow varieties as well.

Even though kabocha has a Japanese name, it has its origins in Central America, according to akueats.com. From Central America, Portuguese sailors and traders carried kabocha on board when they sailed around the Pacific. Kabocha can last for months at room temperature and was the perfect food for long journeys at sea. The traders brought kabocha to Japan in the mid 1500s and Japanese immigrants brought it to Hawaii. Today, kabocha is commercially grown in California and Mexico, and is becoming a popular squash for sweet and savory chefs due to its excellent nutritional content, flavor and texture.

The nutritious kabocha squash has:

  • 40 calories per cup versus 60 in a cup of butternut squash.
  • An excellent source of beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in our bodies. Vitamin A is important for healthy night vision, immunity, and hair and skin.
  • The same iron content as red meat!
  • Calcium, fiber and magnesium.

Kabocha can be used in a variety of dishes that are easy to make and will impress your friends and family. It has a flavor that is halfway between a sweet potato and a pumpkin, so it can be used in sweet or savory dishes. Incredibly versatile due to its texture (bright yellow flesh that is very firm with no stringiness), kabocha can be grilled, steamed, baked or made into soup, and is used in a large variety of cuisines, although the most popular use of kabocha is in Japanese tempura.

Pumpkin curry is fast becoming a popular dish in Thai restaurants. The sweetness of the squash complements the flavor and spiciness of the red curry. I added chicken to this dish but vegetarians can make it with tofu. By roasting the squash before adding it to the curry, it adds more depth and sweetness to the flavor. It is incredibly easy to make and tastes delicious!

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