Jan 14, 2010

You say kabacha, I say kabocha

I went to a few nice restaurants in New York and New Jersey and they were all serving kabocha. Is it trendy? Do you know what it is? Japanese often call it "pumpkin," though it is much closer to an acorn squash with its dark green skin and yellow flesh.
I ordered it at The Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield, calling it ka-bo-cha. The waiter kind of rolled his eyes and said, "It's ka-BA-cha and it's a Japanese butternut squash."
I jumped up and threw my napkin on the table and said, "No, it's ka-BO-cha, and it's more like an acorn squash!"
Wait a minute. No, I didn't. I said, "Ah, I see. Yes, that."
It was a huge side serving, a thick slaw with ginger and almonds and plenty of butter. It was so good. I love squash. I appreciate how Japanese cooking brings out the natural unadorned flavor of foods and all, and I am always happy to get a chunk or slice of steamed kabocha served with the skin on and maybe just a little subtly sweet sauce.  But ginger and almonds and butter!
Another place, Flatbush Farm in Brooklyn, was serving it over ricotta gnocchi that had the consistency of marshmallow. They were calling the squash kobocha and mixing it up with chanterelles and pumpkin seeds. Delicious.
America can call it anything it wants, as long as it keeps making it so good.

The image is from Japan's Agriculture & Livestock Industries Corporation. The page will tell you everything you'd like to know about kabocha (in Japanese).

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