Some kabocha for sale at the local market. (Photo by Luc Gougeon)
By Luc Gougeon
Late summer is the prime season to eat kabocha. This green Japanese pumpkin is actually a winter squash very similar to the American buttercup squash. The deep orange flesh of the kabocha is sweet and can be used in numerous recipes. You will often see long and thin slices of kabocha in vegetable tempura alongside the onions and mushrooms.
When you buy a kabocha, you want a firm and heavy one with a dry stem. The whole kabocha can be kept for a long time outside the fridge, but once cut, you should refrigerate it. The skin of the kabocha is really hard and you will need a very large and sturdy knife to cut it in half. I have a 30 cm. chef knife and despite putting my 220 pounds of weight on the blade, I still have a tough time cutting a kabocha, so be very careful!
Kabocha is great in soup, so let me suggest a very simple soup with a touch of coconut milk to give it a twist. For most Japanese, it seem a weird mix, but the result is delicious. This simple soup recipe serves four people.
- Half a kabocha
- 1 big onion
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp. of fresh minced ginger
- 1 can of coconut milk (If you don’t fancy coconut, cream or milk will work just fine.)
- 1 tbsp. of olive oil, butter or vegetable oil
- 5 cups of chicken stock or vegetable stock
1.) After cutting the kabocha, proceed to soften the flesh by either baking the kabocha or by putting it in the microwave. If you decide to bake, place the kabocha cut side down in a cooking pan with a little bit of water and bake it for 40 minutes at 400 F. A toaster oven will work, but the microwave option might be simpler; just cook it until tender.
Once the kabocha is soft, remove the seeds and the skin. The skin is edible, but it would not make a great-looking soup. Cut the kabocha into little cubes.
2.) Chop the onion fine and saute it with some oil. Add the garlic and make sure it doesn’t burn.
3.) Add the ginger.
4.) Add the kabocha and mix everything together.
5.) Add the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat and let the soup simmer for at least 30 minutes.
6.) When everything is soft, pass the soup in a blender or a food mill. I had no blender at home, so I used a wooden spoon with a chunkier result that was still delicious.
7.) Add a pinch of salt and ground pepper.
8.) Just before serving, add the coconut milk to taste. I added about a cup.