Kabocha Squash, known as Japanese pumpkin, is a type of winter squash with a round or squat shape and bumpy, dark green skin. It belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, along with other squash varieties, pumpkins, gourds, and melons.
It has a bright orange flesh that is sweet and nutty, often described as similar to chestnuts or sweet potatoes. Its texture is dense and creamy. It is not stringy or fibrous like other squash varieties.
Can kabocha be used in place of calabaza squash?
Yes! Calabaza squash (kalabasa in Filipino) is a winter squash with a milder flavor and a more fibrous, stringy flesh. Its skin is green to light tan or orange with bright yellow or orange flesh.
It is commonly used in Filipino cuisine, though harder to find in the US. Kabocha squash makes an excellent substitute.
Is kabocha squash healthy?
Aside from being delicious, kabocha squash is considered a healthy food. It is low in calories and a good source of fiber that helps promote digestive health, regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol.
It is high in vitamins A and C, which are important for immune function, skin health, and eye health. Packed with potassium, it supports heart health and blood pressure regulation, while also providing calcium and magnesium to promote strong bones.
One of the health-promoting compounds in kabocha squash is flavonoids like beta-carotene and lutein, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research suggests that these compounds may lower the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders.
Can you eat the skin of kabocha squash?
Yes! Unlike other types of winter squash, its skin is relatively thin and can be eaten along with the flesh. The skin contains nutrients and adds a bit of texture to your dish.
However, it can be tough and fibrous in some areas, particularly near the stem or base of the squash. If you prefer a softer texture or for soups, peel the skin off with a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife before cooking.
How to buy
Kabocha squash is available at Asian grocery stores, farmers' markets (during fall and winter months), health food stores, and some well-stocked supermarkets.
Look for a hard, dark green rind with no blemishes or bruises. It should feel heavy for its size, indicating that it is dense and has a good amount of flesh. The stem should be firmly attached.
How to store
Kabocha squash can be stored for up to a month in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat. Once cut, remove the seeds and cover the squash tightly with plastic wrap. It can last up to a week in the fridge.
Keep it away from ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables, like bananas and apples, and check regularly for spoilage.
How to prepare
Wash the squash thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris. As an option, you can microwave it for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the rind and make cutting easier.
Step 1: Place it on a cutting board and make a small cut on the top using a sharp knife, slightly off center to avoid the stem. Carefully cut through the squash along the previously made cut.
Step 2: Using a spoon, remove the seeds and fibrous flesh from the center of each half.
Step 3: Place each half with its flesh side flat on the cutting board, then cut it in half lengthwise from top to bottom.
Step 4: Slice off the stem and peel it at this point if you prefer.
Step 5: Cut each quarter into 3-4 wedges.
Step 6: You can cut them into bite-size pieces or into matchsticks, depending on your recipe. Kabocha, like calabaza squash, can be used in stews, soups, and sautés.
Roasting kabocha squash may not be common in Filipino cuisine, but it sure is an easy way to prepare it.
Filipino recipes with Kabocha Squash
Kabocha squash can be used similarly to calabaza squash in Filipino cooking. Here are some ways:
- Ginataang Kalabasa (Squash in Coconut Milk): Squash is simmered in coconut milk along with shrimp, crab, or pork. Some variations may include vegetables like yardlong beans (sitaw) or malunggay (moringa).
- Okoy or Ukoy (Shrimp and Vegetable Fritters): Shredded squash, along with shrimp and other vegetables, is coated in batter and formed into small patties. It is then fried until crispy and served with a spiced vinegar dipping sauce.
- Pinakbet (Braised Mixed Vegetables): A hearty stew made with a variety of local vegetables (okra, eggplant, yardlong beans, bitter melon, and squash) with sautéed shrimp paste, aromatics, and proteins like shrimp or pork.
- Lumpiang Gulay (Vegetable Spring Rolls): Shredded squash and other vegetables or ground meat are rolled in thin lumpia wrappers. They are then deep-fried until crispy and served with a vinegar-based sauce.
- Kalabasa Soup (Squash Soup): A soup that can be made with kabocha or calabaza variety. One version is puréed with aromatics and sometimes coconut milk, while another includes diced squash with other vegetables in a thin broth.
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- Cutting board
- Kabocha Squash
- Wash the squash thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris. As an option, you can microwave it for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the rind and make cutting easier.
- Place it on a cutting board and make a small cut on the top using a sharp knife, slightly off center to avoid the stem.
- Carefully cut through the squash along the previously made cut.
- Using a spoon, remove the seeds and fibrous flesh from the center of each half. Place each half with its flesh side flat on the cutting board, then cut it in half lengthwise from top to bottom.
- Slice off the stem and peel it at this point if you prefer.
- Depending on your recipe, cut each quarter into 3-4 wedges, then into bite-size pieces or matchsticks.
- Kabocha, like calabaza squash, can be used in stews, soups, and sautés.