Kabocha, commonly known as "Japanese pumpkin" in English, is a variety of winter squash harvested in the late summer or early fall that turns sweeter in autumn and winter after a post-harvest ripening period. Kabocha is known for its velvety texture and signature sweet flavor similar to a cross between a sweet potato and a pumpkin. Compared to the American variety of pumpkins, which are mostly hollow, kabocha are extremely versatile and used in a wide range of dishes. Here are three of my favorite dishes that feature kabocha.
Simmered kabocha is one of the most classic Japanese dishes, featuring a savory flavor achieved by combining dashi broth, soy sauce, and sake.
Although the green rind of the kabocha is very hard when raw, it softens incredibly when simmered and is full of vitamins and antioxidants that will give your health a boost during any season.
Kabocha risotto is an Italian dish with a Japanese twist and one of my go-to comfort foods during the cold weather months. To make this dish, combine tender chunks of sweet kabocha, onion, rice, and Italian parsley and simmer it all in a chicken dashi and white wine sauce. For a vegetarian option, you could substitute a vegetable consomme and white wine sauce.
I had never seen a croquette before I came to Japan, but it is a delicious fried dish that has emerged in many parts of the world. Croquettes can be made from nearly anything, so they can help you to avoid wasting food. Kabocha croquettes are one of my favorite kinds because they are both crunchy on the outside and naturally sweet and savory on the inside. Just be sure to remove the green rind of the kabocha before making them into croquettes, even though it can be left on for most other dishes.
Because kabocha are sweet, savory, and extremely versatile, you can find a recipe that incorporates them for just about any season, so you can get your fix whenever you like!
About the author:
Jessica Craven is a writer, artist, and designer passionate about introducing aspects of Japanese culture to English-speaking audiences. Previously, she studied Japanese traditional art forms and Japanese art history at Akita International University, worked in art museums and galleries in the United States, and returned to Japan to work in Saitama for five years on the JET Program. She is fascinated by how traditional Japanese art forms, like tea ceremony, are also closely related to philosophy and health. She currently lives in Tokyo, where she is continuing her writing career.