Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thai Red Curry Coconut Kabocha Squash Soup

Thai Red Curry Coconut Kabocha Squash Soup...that's a bit of a mouthful.

In keeping with my pumpkin/winter squash theme (after the recent last pumpkin/winter squash-related post), decided to do a savory dish this time around.  What better way to embrace the fall than with a pumpkin -- actually, kabocha squash to be exact -- soup.

Kabocha squash is a Japanese varietal with sweet, creamy, tender flesh.  But there are any number of winter squash you can use -- perhaps hubbard, butternut, black futsu (my latest discovery), red kuri, sweet meat...to name a few.  Do you have a favorite winter squash varietal?

The Internet is replete with food bloggers and other pumpkin/winter squash enthusiasts writing about their beloved winter gourd and, no doubt, pumpkin/winter squash soup.  So here's my take on it, my contribution to the blogosphere.

What I dislike about the majority of pumpkin soups is the addition of sugar or other sweeteners. I prefer a savory soup sans maple syrup or apples.  In my humble opinion, winter squash are inherently sweet enough. Obviously, taste is highly subjective, so it's all about what you like.  My mom would not touch this soup because she despises anything (and I mean anything) that is "creamy" (I know, very strange, I've never heard of anyone not liking "creamy.").

On the contrary, I prefer the contrast of sweetness from the kabocha squash with the spicy (subtle spiciness from the Thai chile paste), salty (saltiness [and umami] from the fish sauce), and sour (from the fresh lime juice) notes.  And (sorry mom) it's creamy; I added coconut milk, which I feel integrates well with these Thai-inspired flavors.

The two, small, orange squash (on the right) and the greenish/black squash (in front) are kabocha; the larger, orange one with the long stem (on the left) is black futsu, which I read has a rich hazelnut flavor (eager to give this one a try).

Thai Red Curry Paste...

You could certainly use store bought Thai red curry paste.  However, you can easily make your own.  It's not hard, but you will have to track down a few key ingredients.  Once you've procured all your ingredients, you can pound in a mortar and pestle for a good 20 minute or so (the traditional method) or simply place in a food processor to form a paste.

The rather odd-looking, pinkish root on the right is fresh galangal, which I found at my local farmers' market (you should be able to find galangal at most Asian grocery stores).  This was the first time I had ever come across extremely fresh galangal.  When galangal is fresh, it is quite tender.  When I find galangal in the store, it's been sitting around for a while and extremely tough, so be careful when slicing.  While related to ginger, galangal has a more intense flavor -- peppery, woodsy/piney, with floral/citrusy notes. 

The other ingredient that may be a challenge is cilantro root.  I'm not sure why the roots are always chopped off?  They have a ton of flavor  -- same thing with shrimp, why not keep the heads on?  They too have loads of flavor.  I periodically ask my fishmonger to bring in some head-on shrimp, but no such luck thus far; apparently, according to the fishmonger, they don't sell.  Sorry about the rant, I digress, back to the cilantro roots.  If you can't find cilantro root, substitute with cilantro stems.

You should be able to readily find the remaining ingredients -- dried chiles, red Thai chiles, lime, lemongrass, garlic, and onion.

I previously wrote about growing your own microgreens on your windowsill here.  They add a nice little touch to any number of dishes.

Today I used a combination of daikon radish microgreens, which are spicy and peppery, just like a radish, and beet green microgreens, which are sweet and reddish/purple in color, just like beets.  It's amazing how something so tiny can pack such a punch of flavor.

Or, forego the microgreens and top with a handful of toasted pumpkin seeds.  

Thai Red Curry Coconut Kabocha Squash Soup
serves 4 to 6
2 pounds cubed (Kabocha or other variety) winter squash
1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
*1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste, more or less as desired
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon fish sauce
juice of 1/2 of lime, plus extra lime wedges for serving
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro leaves
sea salt to taste

Optional Toppings
toasted pumpkin seed
toasted dessicated coconut

Peel the tough outer skin of the squash.  Carefully slice in half.  Scoop out the seeds.  Chop into cubes.

Heat the oil a soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute about 5 minutes until translucent.  Add the garlic and saute another minute.  Add the curry paste and saute another minute.  Add the coconut milk, stock, cubed squash and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes.  Add the lime juice and cilantro.

Blend in a high speed blender until very smooth.  Taste and season for salt.

Serve immediately with lime wedges, microgreens and/or toasted pumpkin seeds.

*The amount of red curry paste will depend on desired heat level and the brand you are using (if not homemade).  I used 1 1/2 tablespoons and the heat level was mild -- a pleasant hint of heat on the back end of your palate.  


Amy (Savory Moments) said...

I love kabocha squash -- it has such a great texture and flavor. Your soup looks really beautiful and inviting.

Gayle said...

Your photos are amazing!! And I can't wait to try the recipe. We're eating lots of kabocha after having it in Japan, where it is served with the skin. But to keep the color of the soup, I understand peeling it off.

Efthimia said...

This is a great recipe, so much flavor and I agree - so much better than the apple/maple syrup-containing varieties! Thanks for sharing! I also love your blog for all the info about interesting ingredients. I've never seen cilantro root before...

Real Food with Dana said...

Hey Lindal! Just wanted to let you know I featured this recipe in my “50 Paleo Fall Squash Recipes Roundup” I posted this weekend. Looks amazing!! I couldn’t resist sharing it :) Thanks for the inspiration, keep the awesome recipes coming!

Here’s the link if you want to check it out! http://www.realfoodwithdana.com/paleo-winter-squash-recipes-roundup/