Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Crazy Poinkins (er...pumpkins...)

For some goofy reason, I like to say "poinkin" instead of pumpkin, but in any case, it's still what it is.

After apple pie, once I moved to Asia I missed the cherished pumpkin pie. I also didn't realize for a while that I was seeing "pumpkins" at the market in China and Japan.

What I was seeing is now known as "kabocha squash" in the U.S. -- or, as even the locals translate, Japanese pumpkins.

They're squat, green things that the Japanese got from Portuguese traders via Cambodia... or, as the Cambodians say, Kamputcha, hence the name "kabocha," a mispronunciation of Cambodia (just as much as our name is also a mispronunciation).

They're VERY close cousins to the buttercup squash... which incidentally is similar in flavor to pie pumpkin and butternut squash. After I ate some fresh steamed kabocha, I realized... this is pumpkin... and maybe I can get a pie out of it.

I don't need to put a recipe up, because the best recipe I've found is here:


I tweaked the recipe a bit, cutting down the sugar because a LOT of the time, like a lot of Japanese fruits and veggies, kabocha are amazingly sweet. (The apples here, even the "crummy looking" ones that I use for pie, are amazingly sweet, and I put less than a quarter cup of sugar in each of my apple pies.)

I don't have condensed milk and powdered milk is still stupidly expensive here. (That's changing quickly, though, I periodically see it on sale for a tolerable price -- the benefit of the appearance of the bread making machine here!) So I just use 2% or better milk here. (Yes, Japanese milk has the milkfat percentages listed on it, making my life easier.)

Note this recipe does not contain mace. I am not a big fan of mace (neither the spice nor the big spiky-ball weapons). So that's fine with me.

THIS time of year, kabocha pop up in the supermarket remarkably cheap. Unlike jack-o-lantern pumpkins, with their thin shells and tons of seeds, kabocha and pie pumpkins are thick so there's plenty of "meaty" parts to eat and not many seeds. (The seeds are still tasty.) So I picked up a kabocha for a hundred yen (about $1.20, I think) at the market, about the size I thought would make one pie and maybe have some glop leftover for later.

THEN a friend GAVE me another kabocha, a BIGGER one. I went, "oh my, " and noted it's riper and will likely go bad on my shelf. (Unless I move it to my staircase, which is rapidly going to "ice cold" at this time of year, but then I forget about things I store out there. Last month I found cans of peaches I bought two YEARS ago. Fortunately not past date yet.)

So I carved the first one up and steamed or microwaved a batch for making pumpkin pie, and the rest I'm going to slice and fry.

Yes. You heard me. Fry.

Japanese LOVE to grill and fry pumpkin. It's actually pretty tasty.

A lot of recipes recommend olive oil, but as far as I can tell you can fry kabocha in canola just fine. Olive oil just is a tad tastier (and more expensive)...

The tough part, for me, is if you've got a whole or half pumpkin is slicing the blasted thing up.

Oh, and finally, my four year old son has gone berserk over this stuff. A few weeks ago, a farm donated a bunch of kabocha to his preschool and they had a big "pumpkin lunch" and he went berserk asking for okawari (more! more!). Since then, he's been asking Mommy for pumpkin! pumpkin! and when I brought home the first pumpkin he lit up and then when I was given the second one he really went nuts.

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