It is the season of pumpkins, and what better way to celebrate that than by making something with kabocha, Japanese pumpkin. Actually, it's technically a winter squash, but in the west, we call it a pumpkin. About the size of a pie pumpkin, though green and knobby, these beautiful squash have a delightfully sweet flavor. They're similar to the butternut squash in texture and taste, through they are a little stronger. I love squash and had been wanting to try one of these for a while now but couldn't find them locally. Just when I had ordered one from Mitsuwa, I found them at the co-op, but it was a different variety, the sunshine kabocha, which has a bright reddish-orange colored skin. I decided to buy it and have even more pumpkin fun.
The squash and the pumpkin are both vegetables from Mesoamerica which, yet again, were brought to Japan by the Portuguese in 1541. The name kabocha is derived from Cambodia, which is where the Portuguese had picked up this particular variety. The Japanese took to the new food and it has been a favorite late summer/early fall vegetable ever since. I had to decide what recipe I wanted to make for my last October post and finally decided on kabocha korokke.
There are a lot of different types of korokke, which are an adaptation of the French croquette, that came over in the early 1900s. It usually consists of a type of meat or seafood, mixed with mashed potatoes, covered in panko and deep fried. The wonderful women at Japanese Cooking 101 adapted the recipe to use kabocha instead of pumpkin, and I think they've got a real winner. The meat used is ground beef, which gives the whole thing an almost shepherd's pie feel. The touch of nutmeg brings out the flavors magnificently. When it's all done, the outside has a crispy crunch and the inside is soft and fluffy, making a terrific balance.
It might be considered a healthy food, if it weren't for the fact that it is deep fried, but if you really want to avoid the extra oil, I bet it would be pretty good as a squash and beef mash. Korokke can be served with tonkatsu sauce, but honestly, it doesn't need it, the flavors stand up all on their own.
As an introduction to kabocha, this was a great recipe and I enjoyed making them almost as much as eating them. I've still got one and a half kabocha left over so next week I'm going to make the more traditional kabocha no nimono, a simmered dish. After that I'll try my hand at kabocha soup, so there is plenty to look forward to.
Until next time, there are plenty of varieties of squash out there, so try some out!