Kaddo Bourani, a Standout Pumpkin Dish at Helmand in Cambridge

Hub Grub

A weekly profile on a favorite New England dish.


Cooking the pumpkin for hours in sugar gives it a gem-like sheen, an incredibly silky (but intact) texture, and a concentrated sweetness that's balanced by the garlicky yogurt sauce and hyper-savory beef gravy. [Photograph: Liz Bomze]

Not to be a downer on traditional holiday fare, but the redundancy of pumpkin ravioli, soup, cheesecake, bread, and pie leaves me bored with the season's favorite squash. At least, I was before I met kaddo bourani, a classic Afghan preparation that has become my favorite way to eat pumpkin.

The dish ($7.95) is a signature recipe at Helmand, the handsomely decorated Afghan dining room in East Cambridge, and is arguably the finest preparation in the Boston area. The heart of the plate is a broad slab of peeled baby pumpkin with a deep orange jewel-like sheen, its appearance the result of coating the flesh in oil and sugar and baking it for upwards of three hours. The process must drive off much of the water that you typically encounter with fresh pumpkin, because the flesh turns uniformly dense, soft, and utterly silky, and its natural sweetness concentrates considerably.

That said, this preparation might come off as cloying if it were for the the two sauces. The white one, known as chaka, is strained yogurt sharpened with garlic, mint, and salt—a relative of tzatziki and raita. As you'd expect, it plays the role of the bright, tangy condiment that breaks up the sweetness. But it also counterbalances the other sauce, the ground beef gravy, which is incredibly savory and maybe a bit too salty. The make a great a couple, and make kaddo a pumpkin dish that I could eat regularly, not just during the season.