Kabocha is My Main Squeeze

Columns Ono, You Know

January 12, 2014

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Leah Friel

My love for pumpkin is obvious, as I’m sure avid Ono readers will remember the fact that I demolished three pumpkin pies two days after Thanksgiving as if it was nothing. Toasted pumpkin seeds? Oh yeah … such a perfect snack (you can thank your jack-o-lantern for that). So, now where does this leave me? Sad to say, but I must succumb to complete pumpkin overkill. Until next year, my friends.

However, mention kabocha, and I’m all about it! Kabocha is commonly referred to as Japanese pumpkin or an Asian variety of winter squash/buttercup squash that’s available all year round. I’ve fallen in love with its strong yet sweet flavor and moist, fluffy texture, which reminds me of chestnuts. And the best thing about kabocha, besides its naturally sweet appeal, you may ask? Well, one bite will tell you that it bears much similarity to a pumpkin and sweet potato combined. Oh my!

So, this week, while there was a nice chill in the air, and for once a sweater was an absolute necessity, I took my appetite to the following Ono, You Know locations, where warm and delicious kabocha creations were patiently waiting for me. With my mouth watering, I couldn’t wait to dive right into kabocha bliss!

With that, I say so long for now, pumpkin, and while I will forever adore you — kabocha currently is my main squeeze!

Kenny’s Restaurant

Next time you find yourself at Kamehameha Shopping Center, be sure to make Kenny’s Restaurant a part of your day. A longtime local favorite, Kenny’s diner-like setting and friendly staff make guests feel at home, not to mention its selection of American and local classics offered at affordable prices.

Whether it be for breakfast, lunch or dinner, generations of patrons satisfy their appetites thanks to the eatery’s diverse eats. Yet, a slew of items are only offered on the catering menu, including Kabocha Pumpkin with Chicken. A small party-sized platter feeds up to 10 people and costs $37, a medium platter feeds up to 20 for $74, a large platter feeds up to 30 for $108.80 and an extra-large platter is perfect for up to 40 priced at $140.60.

Kenny’s chef Ryan Santos has been with the restaurant for almost two years and says there is high demand for this catering item.

“Kabocha Pumpkin with Chicken is one of our No. 1 sellers,” he says. “And we use locally sourced kabocha from D. Otani Produce.”

The kabocha is cut into cubes and steamed until it reaches the perfect softness before it’s sauteed with pieces of boneless chicken thigh. A splash of homemade teriyaki sauce — comprised of bits of lemon, ginger and garlic — is added to the mix, and finally the dish is complete with a mustard cabbage garnish.

According to Santos, patrons are attracted to the natural sweetness of kabocha. And when paired with rice … now, that’s legitimate perfection. Kabocha Pumpkin with Chicken is all I need on these cooler winter days.

This Kenny’s catering must-have is reason enough to get the party started!

Kenny’s Restaurant
Kamehameha Shopping Center
1620 N. School St.

Kahai Street Kitchen

Gourmet fare, local style. That’s the philosophy behind Kahai Street Kitchen, a Kalihi eatery owned and operated by Nao Iwata. With innovative craftsman-ship, Iwata and his staff present new and loyal patrons alike with Tuesday through Friday lunch service, which serves as a creative outlet for head chef David Yamamoto. Since the restaurant’s beginnings in 2006, diners approve of the restaurant-quality meals that reflect plate lunch prices.

Sure, plate lunch classics such as hamburger steak and the island-favorite loco moco have mass appeal, but it’s Yamamoto’s other culinary masterpieces that keep diners in anticipation, eager to come back for more.

Dragon Eye is a product of Yamamoto’s expertise in the kitchen. Priced at $10.95, this lunchtime special features sweet panko-coated kabocha and bay shrimp croquettes stuffed with jumbo shrimp. Each morsel of shrimp is lightly breaded and deep-fried a golden brown. The exquisite presentation is equivalent to the exceptional flavor of the dish. And to top it off, Yamamoto places Dragon Eye in a pool of sweet chili cream sauce garnished with spicy red habanero tobiko.

“The tails of the shrimp stick out (of the kabocha) and are supposed to resemble a dragon eye. And the sweet chili cream sauce and spicy tobiko give a kick to the dish. We figured this was quite fitting to the dragon theme,” explains Iwata. “The different textures pair very well together, especially the kabocha and the cream sauce.” (Think mashed potatoes and gravy good.)

Kahai Street swooners, keep your eye on the prize, as Dragon Eye is featured as a special this Tuesday through Friday (fax orders for 10 people or more to 842-4273).

Kahai Street Kitchen
237 Kalihi St.

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best