The Quest for Kabocha Curry

Note, 2018: This recipe is one of the most interesting to me from an international standpoint in that I was trying to recreate a restaurant dish from Indian restaurants that specialized in curry in Japan. They had adjusted for the local palate but imported certain ingredients in bulk, and I had adjusted for my home kitchen, where I didn’t have solid access to jalapeños, jasmine rice, etc. I don’t claim this recipe to be authentic to any region or culture, but I loved making it when I lived in the country and going out to eat it when I visited the city.

ピリッとした (adj)

1. peppery(of food)
2. rapierlike(cynicism, wit)
3. spicy(figurative)
4. tart(flavor)

e.g. ピリっとした甘さ (piritto shita amasa) spicy sweetness

See for more.

A few Indian restaurants in Ishikawa serve a dish called sitafal curry (シターパル・カレー), a kabocha-squash-based curry, which I had never had till I came to Japan.* I’ve had it both sweet and spicy. After I learned how to make palak paneer, I wanted to try my hand at kabocha curry. My Indian colleague said that sitafal is a fruit in India, but they don’t really use it in curry. When I looked online for a recipe in Japanese, Google just linked to restaurant menus and Japanese curry-rice with kabocha; English sites yielded similar results. Now that I know how palak paneer works, I swapped kabocha for the spinach and completely readjusted the spices to complement the kabocha.

I consider this curry to be on the higher end of my spicy scale—although it has a sweet element to it, the dried chili adds a nice heat behind the spices. To adjust the heat level, I recommend reducing the garam masala, or, if you really can’t handle spice, leave out the chili. (Conversely, you can add another chili or more garam masala if you prefer yours very spicy.)

I served this with raisin flatbread and a dollop of homemade yogurt, since I didn’t have any cream.

Spicy Kabocha Curry
Serves 4. (200 cal./serving)

¼ kabocha squash,** peeled, steamed and mashed (kabocha かぼちゃ、南瓜)
3-5 Tablespoons of vegetable oil  (sarada oiru, サラダオイル) or ghee (gii, ギー)
2 onions (finely chopped) (tamanegi, タマネギ)
1 dried red chili pepper [capsicum], slit in half (aka togarashi, 赤唐辛子)
1 Tablespoon ginger paste or grated ginger(nama shouga, 生しょうが)
½ Tablespoon garlic paste (ninniku oroshi, ニンニクおろし)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder (taamerikku, ターメリック)
1 teaspoon cumin(kumin, クミン)
1 teaspoon garam masala (garamu masara, ガラムマサラ)
½ teaspoon of coriander or cilantro (koriandaa, コリアンダー; or shirantoro, シラントロ)
3 teaspoons sugar (satou, 砂糖)
2 teaspoons cinnamon (shinamon, シナモン)
Salt and pepper to taste (shio, 塩, and koshou, 胡椒)
1/2 can (200 grams) diced tomatoes (katto tomato, カット・トマト)
Cream for garnish (nama kuriimu, 生クリーム)

A steamer basket and lidded pot for steaming the kabocha (otoshibuta, 落とし蓋)
A blender (mikisaa, ミキサー) or food processor (fuudo purosessa, フードプロセッサ)
A large frying pan (furai pan, フライパン)

1. Prepare the kabocha. Quarter the kabocha and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Peel ¼ of the squash and cut into bite-sized pieces. Steam until very soft, then mash with a fork.
2. If not using pastes, grate ginger and press garlic.
3. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Thinly slice the onion and chilies and saute until golden brown.
4. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for another minute, then add the turmeric and cumin to the pan. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
5. Add the tomatoes or tomato puree to the frying pan and stir until the oil separates.
6. Add the garam masala, coriander, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.
7. Add the mashed kabocha and cook for about 5 minutes. To thin out or moisten curry, add a little water.
8. Remove curry from heat. Run through a blender or food processor so that the curry is smooth.
9. Serve hot and garnish with cream.

*Though some American restaurants have it in their online menus.
**May substitute buttercup or butternut squash (or other sweet orange winter squash). Kabocha is sweeter than American pumpkin, though, and has a different texture.


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