For My Friend, Jenny, Who Doesn’t Know What a Kabocha Is

Kabocha melon, Kabocha squash, or Japanese pumpkin
Kabocha melon, Kabocha squash, or Japanese pumpkin; whatever you call it, this gourd makes a great alternative to pie pumpkin, butternut squash, and yes, even potatoes!

Don’t feel bad! I had never heard of kabocha, either, before I moved to California! Pumpkins, yes. Spaghetti squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, summer squash, crookneck squash, and zucchini? You betcha! But kabocha? No. And if I had heard of either “kabocha” or “kabocha melon”, I certainly wouldn’t have assumed that either name for this Cucurbita referred to a type of squash.

But then I got a little adventurous on a night out at Izakaya Honda-Ya in Fullerton—before it became Poke Express by Honda Ya—and had my first taste of Japanese pumpkin. I still have a preference for smallish, orange, pie pumpkins—with their Halloween looks and “real” pumpkin flavor—but when the stores around Anaheim and Fullerton stop stocking those little balls of autumnal cuteness, and kabocha squash is still available, I flip that preferred pumpkin switch from Jack O’ Lantern to Japanese.

Wikipedia says that kabocha melon is “is similar in texture and flavor to a pumpkin and sweet potato combined.” I can’t verify that for myself (and I do not like sweet potatoes, so consider that lack of verification a positive), but I will say that texturally, the kabocha I’ve cooked at home have had a mouthfeel that reminded me a bit of baked, white potatoes, and—confusingly—also a bit of beans. There’s a thick, flaky, carby texture to it that always makes me wonder if the nutritional information I’ve found online for kabocha squash might be inaccurate. My eyes take in the 6 net grams of carbohydrate (total carbs minus fiber), but mouthfeel says “Yeah, no. Double that. At least.”

The info I have is the info I have, though, and since I’m not about to start guessing carb content based on the texture of various fruits and vegetables, kabocha melon is still on the menu at my house. And until I notice a significant blood sugar rise (or crash) in response to eating it (or my poor, carb-deprived wife stops loving when I serve kabocha), it’ll stay right there, in all it’s orange-fleshed, weird-textured, buttered-up glory.

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