Thursday, August 21, 2014


Ginataang Kalabasa is a traditional Filipino food made from squash cooked in coconut milk, an all-time favorite in my family. It is a fusion of our ancient Malay and Mexican food heritage...

Our ancient Malay-Filipino ancestors were already cooking vegetables in coconut milk (called ginataang gulay) by the time the Spaniards came and introduced calabaza from Mexico.

The word 'calabaza' is the Spanish word for squash or pumpkin, derived from the Persian term 'kharbuz' for melon, in which family squash belongs.

Calabaza is a native of Mexico and is an ancient staple food. It was first cultivated for food in pre-Hispanic Mexico - - one of the major staples of the Aztec and Mayan Indians. 

Calabaza has been cultivated in central Mexico since about 7,000 years ago. For thousands of years calabaza has been used both as food and ritual offering of the Aztec and Mayan Indians. 

One of the their important rituals featuring squash or pumpkin  was remembering the dead family members or ancestors on one or two special days in a year. From these ancient Aztec and Mayan Indian ancestors come the knowledge that souls continue to exist after death.

The famous Halloween lantern featuring carved pumpkin is an influence from this ancient Mexican tradition of celebrating Dia de los Muertos on Oct 31-Nov 1 (day of the dead or All Saints Day or among Filipinos known as Todos Los Santos). 

In ancient Mexican culture that day was celebrated by refraining from meat and eating only vegetarian food - - fruits, grains, beans, corn and sweets made from squash such as calabaza en tacha - - candied squash baked in rich caramel sauce.

Here is my recipe of ginataang kalabasa.


4 c squash (big cubes)
1 c malunggay leaves
green chilis

2 pcs tokwa (cut in triangles)
1/2 c tomatoes (chopped)
1 c thin coconut milk
1 c thick coconut milk
2 Tbsp ginger (sliced)
2 Tbsp leeks or spring onions
salt, labuyo chilis (optional)


1. Add a little salt to the tokwa. Fry. Set aside.

2. In a pan, saute leeks or spring onions. Add ginger. Cook for a while, then add tomatoes and salt. Cook well.

3. Add kalabasa, thin coconut milk and seasoning. Cover and cook. When kalabasa is a little tender, add chilis. Cover and continue cooking.

4. In a separate sauce pan, cook thick coconut milk until very thick almost like becoming latik. Set aside.

5. When kalabasa is cooked, remove from heat. Add cooked creamy coconut milk and malunggay leaves. Mix. Add fried tokwa triangles on top. Cover. Serve.


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