Have you heard of a Kabocha Squash? It's also called a Japanese pumpkin. No? Either had I until recently when one came in my fruit and veggie box from our local coop.
I have to admit that this little green guy sat on my counter for a month as I searched for the perfect recipe. I found many recipes for slicing, seasoning (some with chili powder and cayenne. Wow!), and baking. Finally I found this gem of a recipe on the website for The Washington Post and we all (children included) enjoyed this sweet yet savory recipe.
I know what your first thoughts must be. Squash chunks with meat? And it's an Asian dish? Are you sure it's good? Yes! The meat and soy sauce bring savor along with a slight sweetness of the squash. My main disclaimer about this recipe is the carving of the vegetable. Be warned because it takes a good ten-plus minutes with a sharp knife and a strong arm. My second disclaimer is that I'm posting this recipe exactly as Chef Kaz Okochi of Kaz Sushi Bistro would have it even though I haven't cooked it per his exact instructions. (See my notes at the bottom of this post.) I usually don't post a recipe without trying it exactly per the original recipe but since some of my neighbors have the same squash sitting all by his lonesome on their counters I thought I would share this recipe before experimenting with it more. Plus, like I said, this recipe is kid-approved in my house so it must taste good enough to share. Agreed?
Courtesy of The Washington Post
1 3-pound kabocha squash
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces ground chicken*
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
2 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mirin*
2 1/2 tablespoons tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato starch or tapioca starch*
Use a long, heavy knife to cut the squash into quarters. Discard the seeds and strings inside; peel each quarter and cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes. There should be about 4 1/2 cups.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the chicken and ginger and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring to break up clumps, until no pink remains in the chicken. Add the squash and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice, until it is well coated. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and cook for 5 to 6 minutes; the squash should be submerged.
Combine the sugar and mirin in a measuring cup, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and add to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the tamari or soy sauce and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the liquid in the pan or skillet has reduced by half. The squash should be firm but tender and easily pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons water with the potato starch or tapioca starch in a measuring cup and add to the pan. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly; the sauce will thicken almost immediately and will take on a smooth sheen when it's done. Divide among individual bowls and serve hot.
*My Notes: I didn't have a couple of ingredients, including mirin or the preferred starch and ground meat. Instead I substituted rice vinegar for the mirin since they're very similar and cornstarch for the potato or tapioca starch. Ground chicken is expensive and hard to come by (someday I'll have my own meat grinder!) and I love the flavor of ground turkey but we ate our last package the previous night so I resorted to using ground beef. Believe it or not this dish still tasted good with ground beef.
If you try this recipe with the ground chicken or turkey before I do feel free to leave a comment with your reaction!