confections of a dietitian | japanese pumpkin and ricotta toasts

Japan loves Halloween. It’s a fairly new holiday here, as it used to only be celebrated by foreigners before it became popular among the locals too. Every store and restaurant has displays and decorations (some will even give a discount if you show up in costume this weekend) and all of the typical treats and candies have special Halloween packaging. There are costume contests and other Halloween type events at the local malls and trick or treating on base for all of the military and local Japanese kids. Since pumpkins are so iconic in America surrounding Halloween, Japan has also adopted this specialty flavor for the month of October. As exciting as this may sound, it’s not the typical pumpkin spice flavor that Americans know and love. In Japan, their “pumpkin” is what we know as kabocha squash. You can imagine how this has become very disorienting when buying, for example, pumpkin Kit-Kats and having them taste like raw squash, and not like the warm fall flavors that we are accustomed to. (My apologies again to my siblings and everyone else that I convinced to try the “pumpkin” Kit-Kats I brought back with me.) The pumpkin ice cream that I found was better, probably because it was made by Häagen Dazs, but the best thing I’ve had was the pumpkin ramen from one of our favorite ramen shops. To summarize my taste testing experiences so far, pumpkin specials in Japan are much better when they are savory rather than sweet.