Kabocha Squash with Spinach in Coconut Milk

Kabocha Squash with Spinach in Coconut Milk

While I was flipping through my Malaysian cookbooks, this recipe jumped out at me. The actual title of the recipe was "Sweet Potato and Spinach in Coconut Milk". Right at the end of the recipe, there was a footnote that stated that pumpkin could be used instead of sweet potatoes. I jumped at the chance as I had a kabocha squash that I was wondering what to do with.

Hard at First

The hard part of this recipe is cutting and peeling the kabocha. If you’ve ever tried to cut a kabocha squash and peel it, it’s really humbug as the squash can be rather hard. One trick that has worked well for me is to prick the kabocha with a knife in several spots and then microwaving the whole squash for about 2 minutes on high. At that point, the squash would have softened enough that it’s easier to cut it open and carry on prepping from there.

Of course, if you don’t have a pumpkin or kabocha squash, sweet potatoes will work just as well. And you will have an easier time with the prepping of sweet potatoes than kabocha!

This dish is a lovely wintertime bowl of hearty vegetables that will warm your bellies and your tastebuds. Okay, on to the recipe…

Kabocha and Spinach in Coconut Milk

adapted from "Malaysian Favourites" by Wendy Hutton

6 shallots, rough chopped
2 large red chillies, quartered (I used some homegrown jalapenos)
1/2 tsp belachan (dried shrimp paste), can be found at 99 Ranch Markets *
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp dried shrimp (hae bee), soaked in hot water to soften, and drained
500 ml (2 cups) coconut milk
1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
400g (14 oz) kabocha (about one medium kabocha), peeled and cut into chunks
150g (5oz) spinach, coarse stems discarded (I just used a bag of young spinach leaves)

Peeled Kabocha Squash and Rehydrating Hae Bee

Peeled Kabocha Squash and Rehydrating Hae Bee

1. Grind the shallots, chillies and belachan in a blender or food processor until finely blended, using a little oil if needed to keep the mixture turning. Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle and pound until fine.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and stir-fry the blended ingredients over low-medium heat, about 4 minutes.
3. Add the dried shrimp and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
4. Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.
5. Add kabocha and salt and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until kabocha has gotten tender but not over soft (if using sweet potatoes, simmer for less time, about 10 minutes, or until tender).

Kabocha Squash with Coconut Milk

Kabocha Squash  in Coconut Milk

6. Add spinach and continue to simmer until vegetables are cooked, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed (I found that it needed a bit more salt and I also added a dash of fish sauce for more saltiness).

Kabocha Squash with Spinach in Coconut Milk

 Kabocha Squash with Spinach in Coconut Milk

7. Transfer to a serving bowl, and serve hot with rice.

*Note for those of you who are squeamish about using belachan, let me tell you that it’s just a small amount and the more pungent smells are not noticeable at all once it’s cooked into the dish. I would even say it’s a great introduction to belachan for the uninitiated.

Kabocha Squash with Spinach in Coconut Milk

Kabocha Squash with Spinach in Coconut Milk

Turns Out Well

The dish turned out really well, full of sweetness from the kabocha and coconut milk and luxuriantly creamy as well. The heat is barely noticeable but just lends an added dimension to the dish. Hardly spicy that even my kids could handle the dish and they loved it for the sweetness of the kabocha!

The dried shrimp and belachan add a nice salty seafood counterpoint to the creamy sweetness. It almost has a "laksa" feel to it and I can imagine the leftovers making a good vegetarian laksa noodle soup (if you’re a pescaterian).


Cheers, Annie

17 thoughts on “Kabocha Squash with Spinach in Coconut Milk”

  1. >I absolutely am going to make this. I also have a (half) kabocha squash in the house. I recently did a warm roasted squash salad with bitter greens with the other half and loved it. But soup and rain sound like a fun at home weekend to me. Thanks GREG

  2. >That looks glorious! I don’t often see kabocha squash in the markets here, but sweet potatoes combined with some butternut squash might be a good bet for this soup.

  3. >I saw frozen cut up with peel on kobacha squash 500 mg packages at a Japanese Market in Los Angeles for $4.48. I saw fresh whole small kobacha squash at a Chinese market for $.50/lb.

  4. >@all – thanks for your comments!

    @Sippity Sup – let us know how it turns out for you!

    @duo dishes – sounds like a plan!

    @Indonesia-Eats – sure thing!

    @Lydia – do try this!

    @Wendy – hmm, which did you go for?

  5. >Hi Annie, I did not buy any kobacha. The fresh one are on sale but they are very small and the frozen ones are expensive.


  6. >There is a Filipino recipe which is similar to this one, we usually throw in yard-long beans (or green beans if you don’t have access to them) and shrimp/prawns! Fish sauce too! Yum yum!

  7. >I love Kabocha squash! I was first introduced to it in Southern CA. Someone brought some Thai coconut cream custard cooked in a kabocha squash to work. The bright yellow contrasts beautifully with the bright orange of the kabocha when sliced!
    Try it! (also known as Sangkaya)

  8. Fantastic recipe. I added freshly made tofu pieces to this and substituted the jalapeño peppers with red Thai chili peppers. Worked out perfectly. Also used fish sauce instead of salt. Finally, microwaving the squash in the microwave did the trick for softening it up for preparation.

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