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Kabocha Squash

Kasma Loha-unchit, Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Golden Winter Squash Pairs with Coconut Milk to Make Colorful Sweet Treats

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha Squash

Numerous new varieties of colorful winter squashes are now available in the fall,  but I still favor the Japanese
kabocha (which means “little pumpkin”) for my cooking. It has a sweet and nutty flavor, smooth and creamy texture, low water content that does not dilute flavorings in my dishes and none of the stringiness characteristic of many kinds of western pumpkins. Because of these attributes, many of my cooking students have found it to be exquisite for making pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving.

With kabocha, I don’t have to wait until fall to make my favorite pumpkin dishes. It is available most of the year round, from all kinds of markets, including many chain supermarkets. This is because it is a dry squash that grows easily and stores extremely well, sometimes for up to six months in a cool, well-ventilated room.

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Cut Open Kabocha Squash

Cut Open Kabocha Squash

Smaller, flatter and more disc-shaped than the common pumpkin carved at Halloween, kabocha squashes average 2-5 pounds in size. They are eaten by Asians at various stages of maturity. Less-mature, deep green ones with light yellow flesh are cooked as vegetables in stir-fried dishes, curries and vegetable soups.(See Kasma’s recipe for Golden Pumpkin Coconut Soup.) As they ripen, the forest-green peel turns a paler grayish green, tinged with splotches of yellow and gold. Inside, the flesh becomes a brilliant shade of orange-gold, much more concentrated with flavor and natural sweetness. At this stage, these golden squashes make a perfect base for all kinds of irresistible and colorful desserts.

Sliced Kabocha Squash

Sliced Kabocha Squash

I am particularly fond of two sweet treats my mother frequently made while I was growing up in Southeast Asia. One recipe (Sweet Soup of Kabocha in Coconut Milk) is given below and the other Sangkaya is found on our recipe page. They are easy to make and delicious, combining the goodness of the “little pumpkins” with the rich flavors of coconut milk. Whenever I come across a beautiful ripe kabocha at the market, I couldn’t resist taking it home to turn into these tasty treats for friends and cooking students. They are delightful in cleaning the palate following a spicy meal.

Select a fully-ripened kabocha with good weight for its size – one splashed with golden hues on a grayish green exterior. But if you are not able to find a ripe one, substitute with any ripe golden winter squash, such as the tasty sweet dumpling, delicalata, kalabasa or buttercup.

See our website for more Thai recipes and more Thai ingredients. You might also enjoy our post on Thai (Sweet) Snacks – Kanom Wahn.

This recipe is also available on our website as Sweet Soup of Kabocha in Coconut Milk.

Sweet Soup of Kabocha in Coconut Milk Recipe (Gkaeng Buad Fak Tong)


Asian Pumpkin in Coconut Cream

Kabocha in Coconut Milk

  • 3 cups cut ripe kabocha squash
  • 2 cups or one can of unsweetened coconut milk (preferably Mae Ploy brand)
  • 2 Tbs. palm or coconut sugar (or substitute with brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Cut the kabocha squash in half, scoop out the seeds and peel off the greenish skin. Cut into strips about 2 inches long, 1/2 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick.

In a saucepan, heat the coconut milk with the two kinds of sugar and salt until well blended. (Salt brings out a rich, caramel flavor from coconut milk.) Bring to a boil, add the squash pieces and cook over low to medium heat until tender (about 7-10 minutes). Serve warm for best flavor.

Serves 6 to 8.

Another (sweet) recipe with coconut milk is Tapioca Black Bean Pudding.

Yummy Thai Snacks (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Yummy Thai Kanom

Six Sticky Rice Snacks

Four Sticky Rice Snacks

We seem to be blogging a lot about Thai (sweet) snacks (kanom wahn) lately so I’ll post one of my all-time favorite photos of snacks, this one taken at Bangkok’s Or Tor Kor Market back in 2004. I love the presentation (in banana leaf cups) of these artfully decorated sticky rice snacks with different toppings. The snacks on the top right and lower left have a custard (Sangkaya) on the sticky rice. The other ones are various sweet toppings. Too pretty to eat? Actually, too tasty to NOT eat!

The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Thai Crepes (Kanom Buang)

Kasma Loha-unchit, Saturday, July 11th, 2009

In Thailand there are two types of Crepes that you might run across, both called Kanom Buang.

 Thai Crepe (Kanom Buang Yuan)

Thai Crepe (Kanom Buang Yuan)

The larger ones are called Kanom Buuang Yuan and are made also by some street vendors and available on the menus of many Bangkok restaurants serving classic Thai or royal cuisine. The word Yuan means “Vietnamese” and refers to the Vietnamese Crepes that were the inspiration for the Thai version. In Thailand they are stuffed with a minced mixture of shredded coconut, roasted peanuts, shrimp, salted radish and fried tofu and served with bean sprouts and a sweet cucumber relish.

Kanom Buang Yuan is a recipe that Kasma taught in her weekend Advanced Series, Set A (class 4). 

Kanom Buang Thai

Kanom Buang Thai

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

The smaller version of the crepes are called Kanom Buang Thai, to distinguish them from the larger yellow crispy crepes of Vietnamese origin. Fahrangs (that’s what the Thai people call Caucasians) sometimes mis-call them “Thai Tacos” because of their appearance. These kanom (the Thai word for snack) have a white filling often mis-identified as coconut cream; it is actually meringue – egg whites and sugar. The stringy bright yellow filling is not shredded mango but extruded duck egg yolks cooked in syrup, and the deep orange filling is a mixture of shredded coconut cooked with minced shrimp or ground dried shrimp and colored with orange food coloring (in the past the orange color came from the rich orange butter in the heads of fresh water prawns). Like many Thai sweet snacks and desserts made with eggs, the origin of this particular snack can be traced to the influence of Marie Guimar, the half-Japanese, half-Portuguese wife of a Greek minister (Constantine Phaulkon) to the Siamese royal court in the 17th century. Marie worked her way to the position of head of the royal kitchen and introduced the use of eggs in making desserts and other sweets.

Floating Market Crepes

Floating Market Crepes

Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, July 2009.

Making a Thai Snack (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Making a Thai Kanom

Making a Thai Snack

Making a Thai Snack

I’m always astounded at the variety of Thai kanom (snacks) that you come across in any Thai market. Sticky rice is best known served plain with mangos, as in Kasma’s recipe Coconut-Flavored Sticky Rice with Mangoes (Kao Nio-ow Mamuang) but there are numerous other sticky rice recipes, including this one: Steamed or Grilled Banana Leaf-Wrapped Sticky Rice Stuffed with Banana and Black Beans (Kao Dtom Pad).

Banana leaves are used in making many kanom. Typically the snack is wrapped in the banana leaf and often grilled or steamed. The banana leaf serves two purposes: it encloses the snack and it adds a bit of flavor, as well. Walking in markets you’ll see various mysterious banana leaf  packages – they are usually worth a taste: they’ll only set you back a very few baht. Be warned: some of them will be savory.

Kasma taught this recipe in her Advanced Series Set D (class 2).

The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand.

The Other Side of Thai Food

Michael Babcock, Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

When you think of Thai food, no doubt a plethora of delicious dishes come to mind. Pad Thai. Green Curry. Tamarind Prawns. Shrimp Cakes. However, there is a whole other side to Thai food that you come across while traveling in Thailand. Often it’s the result of adapting Western foods into a Thai context: this can lead to food that you probably wouldn’t eat on a bet. I say bring on the fried insects – one of the last things I would ever choose to eat in Thailand would be wieners with cheese in a crust, such as that found at a Bangkok mall. Thank you very much! There are a lot of other good dishes to eat.

Wieners in a Blanket

Wieners in a Blanket in Thailand

Thai Cake Store

Gateaux (Cake) House

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Thai Donuts

Donuts in Thailand

Each year, even in the open-air markets, I see more Western foods for sale, particularly the sweet stuff. Decorated cakes seem especially popular – the picture to the above right was also taken at a shopping mall in Bangkok. There’s even a chain restaurant, S&P, that is known for their Western-style cakes.

If what I see in the markets is any indication, Thai people do have a sweet tooth. These brightly colored donuts are from an open air market in Bangkok. I’ve also seen donuts on a stick. 

Two or three years ago, a Thai friend took us out to dinner and then, as a treat, took us to a trendy dessert place. The main attraction there was big, puffy, white bread that was toasted, cut into chunks, and served with a cloyingly-sweet syrup; most of the syrups were brightly colored, much like the donuts in the picture here. 

Cute Faces and Wieners

Cute Faces & Wieners

I get a bit of a chuckle out of what I think of as “cute food.” The best example I’ve seen was at a park in Krabi – it was little cute faces on a stick along with wieners. I’m guessing it was some kind of fish paste; I confess I did not have the desire to actually try it.

Written by Michael Babcock, March 2009.