Japanese kabocha squash is a staple vegetable in Japanese cuisine whose flesh is similar in color and sweetness to a pumpkin. In fact, it is sometimes called Japanese pumpkin. Its outer appearance, however, is completely different from a pumpkin, with a jade-green rind streaked with a lighter green. Its species is Cucurbita maxima.
It is a seasonal vegetable that peaks during the fall and winter months but is readily available for sale year-round. The kabocha is usually sold at a weight of 2 to 3 pounds, but some are larger. The rind is edible but it may be peeled if desired.
There are many different ways in which Japanese kabocha is enjoyed and its applications are only limited by the creativity of the chef or home cook. The simplest is to simmer it with dashi broth, soy sauce, and mirin. You will also find kabocha used in stir-fries with noodles, curry rice, and simmered dishes. Here are three kabocha squash recipes to springboard your imagination.
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Kabocha croquette (known as korokke in Japanese) is an amazing alternative to Japanese potato croquettes which are the standard in Japanese cuisine. Instead of potatoes, these special croquettes are made with mashed kabocha and browned onions and then breaded in panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Despite only being seasoned with salt and pepper, the croquettes are bursting with flavor. They can be enjoyed as is or can be dipped in a simple tonkatsu-style sauce.
This Japanese pumpkin croquette recipe includes the dipping sauce made from an equal mixture of bottled okonomiyaki sauce and ketchup. You could use tonkatsu sauce in place of the okonomiyaki sauce, which is slightly sweeter. This simple dish is enjoyable as an appetizer or as a side dish for a meal.
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This kabocha tempura recipe is often included in the assorted tempura platters that are found on the menu of Japanese restaurants. The kabocha is sliced thin and coated in a light tempura batter and deep-fried to crisp perfection. This tempura may be served simply with a sprinkling of sea salt, or it may be dipped into a tempura sauce. The trick for a crisp tempura batter is to mix it with ice-cold water. Then you want to be sure that the frying oil is at 375 F.
Kabocha tempura is enjoyable on its own if you don't want to include other vegetables. Guests who haven't had kabocha tempura before will be in for a very pleasant surprise.
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The kabocha squash soup recipe is a very basic Japanese way of enjoying kabocha squash. The kabocha is cooked, puréed and then seasoned with chicken stock, cream and salt, and pepper. It's heart-warming deliciousness at its best. This soup is easy to make and takes less than an hour from start to finish, with most of the time spent in the simmering rather than fussing over the soup. It will please your family as a nutritious start of a meal or as part of a quick lunch after you have made a pot.