As a variety of Asian squash that is popular in Japan and China, the Chinese winter squash has a unique taste and appearance that set it aside from many other types of squash. Sometimes referred to as a fuzzy melon, the squash is distinguished by a dark green skin that is often mottled or speckled with lighter areas. Tiny hairs that are somewhat sharp and prickly cover the skin, making it a somewhat foreboding looking vegetable.
The insides of the Chinese winter squash more than make up for the intimidating exterior, however. The flesh is white in color and has a firm but pleasant texture. The taste is slightly saltier than most American varieties of squash, which make this variety an ideal compliment as a raw vegetable with dip or as a roasting vegetable.
Known by such names as koondor, tohgan, and dong gua, the winter squash can also be used as a base for a tasty blend of meats and vegetables. The thick skin can be hollowed out and the interior mixed with seasonings and other ingredients to make a filler. Loading the filler back into the rind and baking for 20 to 30 minutes can yield a beautiful and tasty entree contained it is own natural boat dish.
In an age when people are looking for alternatives to starch and carbohydrate filled favorites, the Chinese winter squash can also be used to prepare a dish that is very similar to mashed or creamed potatoes. Peeling the squash, dicing the interior into cubes, and then boiling them until they are soft will yield the right base product to produce a creamed dish. Adding milk, butter, salt, and pepper will create a creamy dish that will taste very much like mashed potatoes, but without the starch content and as many carbohydrates per serving as well. In like manner, these cubed and boiled sections can be used as a substitute in potato salad recipes.
Chinese winter squash is beginning to gain in popularity in the United States. While still considered a specialty item, many supermarkets are beginning to carry it along with the more familiar varieties. Conversion charts showing how to use this squash in place of other vegetables can be found in health food stores, upscale food markets, and online.