Koloo — Sweet and Sour Pumpkin
Updated: Jun 26, 2020
My family says "koloo" but I've heard others say "koroo" or "kadoo." They are all variations of the same Urdu word for pumpkin, which is "kuddoo." Suffice to say, this dish comes from the the Indian and South Asian side of Mauritian cuisine.
There is something quite freeing about this dish because it very easily allows for variations or adjustments. For instance, I make this recipe with butternut squash and Mom makes this with acorn squash but you could just as easily use the classic sweet Halloween pumpkins or any other winter squashes that are available.
The tropical twist: as with many Mauritian dishes, there is a fusion of elements from different parts of the world. Tamarind has historically been traded between Africa and the Indian subcontinent for centuries so it became a central ingredient in Indian cooking. When Indians arrived in Mauritius, they incorporated tamarind into the local island cuisine. My mom likes to add a local twist by adding pineapple. Mauritius is well-known for its juicy and very sweet pineapples, which are not only sold in markets but also by vendors at the beach! So it is no surprise that pineapple has become a core ingredient in many savory Mauritian dishes, including this one. I am allergic to pineapple so I cook koloo without it, but I've included how to add it in at the end of the recipe.
This recipe serves four as a side
•ginger & garlic
•fresh cilantro (coriander)
•pineapple (optional, see note)
Heat up some olive oil in a deep pot, approximately four tablespoons. While that heats up, dice up one large white onion and add it to the pot. Let the onion soften on medium heat. You want it to get a little bit of color but not get crispy. While that's happening, you have time to prep everything else. Start by mincing up 3 garlic cloves and 1 inch (3cm) of fresh ginger. Then peel and roughly dice up 1 butternut squash (or two acorn squashes).
When the onions are soft, add the ginger and garlic, along with 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds and 1 tablespoon of black mustard seeds. Give it all a stir and toss in the squash.
At this point, add about 1/3 cup of water and immediately cover the pot so the squash has a chance to steam and get soft. Turn the heat down to medium low. I try and stir everything once every five minutes till the squash is completely soft but not losing its shape. You may need to add a few more splashes of water if it starts to get dry. This takes approximately 20 minutes.
When the squash is cooked and fork tender, turn off the heat. Now we add the sweet and sour elements. Stir in 3 tablespoons of tamarind paste, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Give everything a stir and taste for seasoning. Depending on how sweet your squash is, you may want to add a bit more sugar or a bit more tamarind. Be adventurous, there is no right or wrong with seasoning. Right before serving, roughly chop some fresh cilantro and stir it in.
We normally eat this as a vegetarian side dish with khadi kichriy. Feel free to double this recipe and serve it as a main dish with rotis.
A popular variation is to add pineapple. This turns up the volume on the "sour" part of this sweet and sour dish. Like pineapple on pizza, it can be controversial but it is certainly authentic and adds a tropical zing.
It's a super quick addition: cube up one tin of canned pineapple and add it about 10 minutes into the squash cooking process. Then continue as normal. Easy!