Kabocha pumpkin, also known as “Japanese” pumpkin, is enjoyed throughout Asia. This knobby dark green-skinned gourd comes small to medium in size, weighing 3 to 4 pounds on average. Similar in shape to squat pumpkins, it has a deep orange flesh that is particularly sweet with a texture somewhere between that of a butternut squash and sweet potato, and somewhat waxy.
Every culture has a pumpkin soup, and my version is based on one I grew up eating. Asian in character with rich coconut milk as a flavor enhancer, this Southeast Asian-inspired sweet pumpkin soup will have your guests guessing at the table, and wanting seconds and leftovers still. Eat as is or create a topping for added texture. I love chewy, bright red sweet and earthy goji berries with spicy ginger and caramelized onions to counterbalance not only the silky texture of the soup, but its color and flavor as well.
And because no two cooks are alike, feel your way through this recipe, engaging your senses while cooking, and create a version of this soup that most speaks to you. Some like it thick while others like it thin. I like it somewhere in between and sipped from a tea bowl, keeping my hands toasty. And if I can enjoy it in front of a fireplace, then all the better…
Kabocha Pumpkin Soup
(Serves 4 to 6)
- One 3 to 4-pound kabocha pumpkin or butternut squash,
peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 quart unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 quart filtered water
- 2 stalks lemongrass, knotted
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons coconut butter
- 1 large red or yellow onion, peeled, halved, and julienned
- 2 ounces ginger, peeled and julienned or grated
- 1/4 cup goji berries (optional)
1) In a medium pot, add the pumpkin, coconut milk, water, and lemongrass, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook until the pumpkin pieces are tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool and remove the lemongrass. Process pumpkin and cooking liquid in a blender until smooth, and pour back into the pot. Season with salt and pepper lightly, and simmer, covered, until ready to serve.
2) Meanwhile, in a skillet over high heat, melt the coconut butter and stir-fry the onion until caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ginger and continue to stir-fry until softened, about 2 minutes. Toss in the goji berries a few times, season with salt and pepper lightly and turn off the heat.
3) Serve the pumpkin soup in individual bowls with a tablespoon of goji berry garnish.
VARIATION: butternut squash makes for a great version of this soup. Depending on the season these can be sweet or not so sweet, so be sure to taste and adjust accordingly. You may also simply, rely on the natural sweetness of the squash opting to not sweeten the soup at all. Make it your own!
♥ HEALTH BENEFITS OF KABOCHA PUMPKINS: rich in beta-carotene and fiber, and contains Vitamin A, B 2 and 6, C, K, Potassium, Omega-3, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It’s good for you.
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