Kabocha is a variation of squash/pumpkin common in Japan. Far more than the States, kabocha is used in a variety of dishes from soup to tempura. For those expats in Japan, it might be surprising that it is most often used in savory dishes like curry rice rather than as a dessert. I’ve used kabocha in a number of ways, but every Thanksgiving I make my family’s traditional pumpkin pie recipe, but with kabocha. Over the years I’ve adapted my Aunt’s original recipe, and instead of canned pumpkin, use fresh local (sometimes even grown from the gaijin’s garden) kabocha. Here’s my recipe. Use whatever pumpkin you can get your hands on, but beware that jack-o-lantern pumpkins are usually not meant to be eaten. Japanese kabocha are usually green, smaller, and sweeter than canned pumpkin. Checkout the video below for the process, followed by the ingredients and directions.
- One-half fresh kabocha (about 500g)
- .5 cup water
- .25 cup awamori/sake (optional)
- .75 cup sugar
- .5 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp cinnamon
- .5 tsp ginger
- .5 tsp freshly ground cloves
- 3 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 cup milk
- .25 cup heavy cream
- .75 cup evaporated milk
- pie crust (unbaked)
Remove the seeds from your kabocha and discard them. Using a sharp knife, remove the kabocha skin and vine tap. Try to preserve the meat of the kabocha. Cut into cubes of roughly equal size (this will help them cook at the same pace). In a large skillet, add water and awamori/sake over high heat. The alcohol content of the sake will burn off, but the sake will help to bring out some of the pumpkin flavor. Add the pumpkin to the skillet and cover. Once the water begins to steam, lower heat to medium and steam about 7-10 minutes, until the kabocha easily breaks with a fork. If the water runs out, add enough to keep steaming the vegetable until it is soft.
While the kabocha is steaming, prepare your spices. You can use clove powder, but if possible use whole cloves and grind them into roughly the same texture as the other spices. When the kabocha is soft, reduce heat to low and carefully remove the lid. Use a masher to crush the kabocha into a smooth paste. When there is no excess water, turn off the heat.
Add 1.5 cups of pumpkin to a large bowl. Add salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Mix into the pumpkin. Add sugar. The pumpkin will turn a dark brown. Pre-heat your oven to 200*C (400*F).
Add eggs and dairy. Mix well. The filling will be very thin. Stir until it is a uniform light orange. Prepare your pie crust. You can find pie crust instructions on foodnetwork.com or buy frozen pie crust if you’re in a hurry. Shape the top of the crust with your fingers. Fill the crust to below the pie plate. Your filling and/or crust will cause the pie to rise slightly. cover the crust edges in foil to prevent them burning. Bake for 45-50 minutes. The top layer of the pie will likely balloon and may burn. You can easily remove this layer if it turns black. The pie beneath should be fine. Remove and cool. Best served chilled with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
So this recipe is NOT traditional Japanese fare, but try it and spread the pumpkin joy. Your coworkers, family, and friends will be impressed if you bring one of these pies along! If you try this recipe, let us know how it went in the comments, or send a picture of your pie to the author and he’ll include it below.