I first encountered these small dense squashes or kalabasa at Farmers Market in Cubao. The vendor told me they were from Korean seeds and that the difference between these and our more commonly available kalabasa was a thinner skin, thicker or denser meat, and sweeter to boot. I wasnâ€™t sure if she was just pulling my leg but I bought a couple of squashes anyway and took them home to try. I have searched several sources and have been unable to find the name of this specific type of squash (anyone who knows more please email me), but I can tell you that I like them more than the more common locally grown kalabasa. I find that the local kalabasa is great in many dishes but for more western type preparations such as baked squash or squash ravioli, a denser less watery meat is needed.
Kalabasa is just a filipinized version of the Spanish Calabaza which literally means squash. There are dozens of types of squashes but these fall into the winter squash category that typically have thick skins, orange meats and store well for a long period of time. They have nothing to do with growing in the winter. In fact, in the tropics, they grow all year round. This kalabasa, probably a Cucurbita moschata, is probably related to butternut squashes and even pumpkins which are closer relatives than say the summer squashes such as zucchini. Kalabasa is a very reasonably priced yet highly nutritious and versatile vegetable. It can be used in soups, sautÃ©ed, baked, in desserts, etc. Incidentally, the American word squash is derived from a Northeastern Indian (feather not dot) word askutasquash meaning to be “eaten raw” according to the Oxford Companion to Food.
This squash is just the right size for a large dish without having a large leftover portion as what normally happens with a local kalabasa. The skin is in fact very thin and much of the weight of the fruit is edible. There appears to be less air in the center of the squash (possibly due to its lack of maturity?) but the meat is intensely orange and delicious. I like to cut these in half and bake them at a high temperature with butter and some brown sugar in the cavity. They also make a delicious side dish when thin slices are brushed with a soy based glaze and grilled on an open flame. I imagine they would be good in ravioli and tempura even. I noticed them in at least two other markets in the past few weeks so they are becoming more widely available. They are more expensive than the more common kalabasa but the difference is not significant given the low cost of squash overall.