Burmese Tamarind Kabocha Curry

Pumpkin soup, pumpkin spice granola, and pumpkin smoothies are all year round staples around here.  Every year around Thanksgiving I go on the typical food blogger pumpkin bender, but have the foresight to stockpile plenty of canned pumpkin in my pantry for the months ahead.

Yes, canned pumpkin.  It’s a rare occasion when I actually buy a standard American pumpkin for cooking purposes.  They always seem too big, too dangerous to cut, and it just doesn’t seem to meet my required effort to reward ratio.

I’m far more likely to cook with kabocha, often called Japanese pumpkin, a hard winter squash that’s available year round (around here anyways) and right-sized for smaller households, generally coming in at an average of 2-3 pounds.  They also tend to be short and squat, which makes cutting them a little less dangerous than your average pumpkin cutting Russian-roulette.

Another bonus?  You don’t even have to peel the skin.  Hello time saver.

In this Burmese dish, cubes of kabocha are cooked with shallots, garlic,  ginger and spices, and then simmered in a tamarind flavored broth.  Dried shrimp powder provides depth and umami to this simple but flavorful dish.

So if you’re a pumpkin lover like me, I’d definitely encourage you guys to try out this Asian squash.  If you’re interested in giving kabocha a try but tamarind or shrimp powder are beyond your comfort zone, you might want to try out one of my very favorite potluck dishes… it’s always a big hit.


Burmese Tamarind Kabocha Curry

If you aren't able to find shrimp powder, you can always use a food processor or high speed blender to grind dried mini shrimp into powder. Dried mini shrimp (ebi) can be found in Japanese grocery stores as well as many other Asian grocery stores.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes


* 1/3 medium kabocha, seeded and cut into approximate 1-inch cubes (you should end up with roughly 3 cups)
* 1-1/2 teaspoons tamarind pulp
* 1/2 cup hot water
* 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
* pinch turmeric
* 1/2 cup minced shallots
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
* 2 teaspoons dried shrimp powder
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
* 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
* 3/4 cup water
* salt (optional)
* 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

* crushed red pepper (optional)


Place the tamarind pulp in a small bowl with the hot water. Mash the pulp with a fork to break it up as much as possible and let stand for approximately 10 minutes. Strain the liquid through a sieve into another bowl and discard the pulp.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turmeric, shallots, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are beginning to turn golden. Add the shrimp powder and cook another minute, stirring frequently. Add the cayenne, kabocha, tamarind liquid, fish sauce and the remaining water. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, until the kabocha has softened, about 5-8 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened. Taste and add additional fish sauce or salt, if necessary. Top with the chopped cilantro and, for those who'd like some extra spice, some crushed red pepper. Serve hot.

Adapted from Burma: Rivers of Flavor by Naomi Duguid

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3 Responses to “Burmese Tamarind Kabocha Curry”

  1. #
    a farmer in the dell — February 21, 2013 at 11:07 am

    This is my kind of meal! yum!


  2. #
    Sacha — March 22, 2013 at 3:42 am

    Found this recipe on foodgawker – my husband is part burmese so always looking for new burmese dishes, this one sounds delicious, i love pumpkin too! Thanks for sharing the recipe:-)


    • Cate — March 22nd, 2013 @ 7:35 am

      Thanks Sacha! Burmese food is new to me, but I’ve been a really big fan so far. Hope you like it :)


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