I can’t specify which region in the Philippines Kabocha Squash and String Beans originated from but it is a common home cooked Filipino dish, served with a side of rice, and fried fish or meat. It is one of my favorite home cooked meals!
I had just moved to the US and was ready for a new chapter in life. I had a new job, new apartment, “new” second hand car. A Filipina in her mid twenties, thousands of miles away from home, ready to conquer the world!
… Or ready to conquer a Kabocha Squash!
*Cue flash back music and effects…..*
Here I am in my new kitchen, “fresh off the boat”, and have not had a good home cooked Filipino meal for months. I gingerly take out a medium sized Kabocha Squash from the grocery bag and set it on the counter. I do a little tap dance and tell myself, “I’m going to eat good tonight!”
I take a large knife and enthusiastically cut the Squash but the knife doesn’t get far. It is stuck midway inside the squash! I’ve never cooked this vegetable before and had no idea that Kabocha has a hard and unrelenting texture that takes a good amount of muscle work to cut.
I do all that I can to pull the knife out of the merciless vegetable while swearing fluently in Filipino and English.
The whole Kabocha Squash with the knife still lodged in it ends up in the trash.
With any new cook, there will be mishaps, both frustrating and amusing. Looking back, I should’ve had more patience and made sure to use a sharp knife and to pierce the Squash slowly, cut gradually, then slowly work my way to the softer center until the Squash is cut in half.
Peel, cube and voila! Ready to sizzle and cook in the pan.
I love this dish for it’s mix of textures, specially when served with a side of steamed rice.
When I was kid, I would usually mash the stir-fried squash and mix it in with steamed rice. Spoon it up with a bit of pork and a piece of green bean and the flavors of all these ingredients together is just home cooked heaven!
There are different ways to stir fry meat and vegetables. Meat is usually browned (third of the way done ) and set aside ( to avoid overcooking the meat) before sauteing the onion then followed with garlic. I usually opt for the easy and fastest way to cook, so far, no complaints.
– Cook squash until fork tender/ fork should easily slip through the squash.
– Be careful not to overcook or you’ll end up with mashed squash casserole!
– Coconut Milk can be added with the green beans (optional)
Stir Fried Kabocha Squash and String Beans
2 tbsps oil
1/2 lb pork cut into bite size pieces
5 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 and 1/2 medium Kabocha Squash cut into cubes
1/2 cup to 3/4 water or soup stock
1/2 lb green beans
2-4 tbsp fish sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 can of coconut milk (optional)
1. Cook pork in medium heat until brown and tender, set aside.
2. Saute onions on low heat until translucent, add garlic and cook for about 2 minutes
3. Add the pork and cook until light brown
4. Add the squash and water/soup stock
5. Cover the pan and simmer on medium to low heat for 30 minutes
6. Mix gently every 10 minutes for even cooking
7. Add the green beans (optional: and 1/2 can coconut milk), mix, cover, and cook for 10 minutes
8. Continue cooking until squash is fork-tender
Optional: You can add coconut milk to this recipe, it makes the dish richer and more savory.
I personally love coconut milk’s rich and creamy flavor and use it often when I cook Filipino Food but the use of this ingredient for this dish is optional.
Cooking with Coconut Milk is used mainly in coastal areas of the Philippine islands where the soil and climate is ideal for coconut trees to grow, and where coconut production is the main livelihood.
The Bicol Region of the Philippine Islands appears to have claim over this mildly sweet and nutty ingredient. Bicol is a popular tourist destination for locals and foreigners and most “Bikolano” dishes are stir-fried or steamed in coconut milk and known for it’s kick in the face awesome spiciness from using ‘siling labuyo” or chilli peppers common in asian countries.