One of my favorite fall dishes is my own pumpkin soup. I 'ran into' this soup as I was trying to make something out of failed pumpkin rice cake that never reached the state of rice cake years ago. Over time, I tweaked here and there, tried different variations, but I always come back to the basic recipe that has remained pretty much the same. Although it's somewhat close to Korean pumpkin porridge (단호박 죽 - dan ho bak juk), this version is too simple for me to make such claims. But what's great about it is that it's simple (3 main ingredients!), flavorful and creamy without adding any cream to it. It leaves lots of room for variations, so feel free to start from here and take it as far as you can go.
My go-to pumpkin is danhobak (단호박, aka kabocha). It's sweet and dense, something of a cross between sweet potato and chestnut in its flavor and texture. In addition to its bright yellow-orange color, I like it for its size which makes it easy to handle. Before I do anything with it, I microwave it for a few minutes or boil the whole pumpkin to get it soft enough to cut it or scoop out its flesh.
If it can get any better... it tastes better the next day, so you can make a batch ahead and come home to a bright, creamy pumpkin soup during the week.
VELVETY PUMPKIN SOUP (단호박 스프)
Yield - 3~4 Servings
1/2 cup Short grain or medium grain white rice, aka sushi rice
1 1/2 ~ 2 cups Water (Feel free to replace 1/2 cup of water with milk)
1/2 cup Pine nuts
2 cups Kabocha flesh (See Step 2)
1/2 ~ 1 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
1. Rinse rice in cold water and drain. Soak rice in 1/2 cup of water for 30 minutes at room temperature, up to overnight in the refrigerator.
2. Toast pine nuts on a skillet over low heat. Stir occasionally for even toasting. When the color of pine nuts turns golden brown, remove from heat and cool for a few minutes.
3. Microwave a kabocha pumpkin until completely soft, about 7~10 minutes depending on size. Alternatively, boil a whole kabocha immersed in water in a pot until soft. Drain and cool for a few minutes until the pumpkin is easier to handle.
Cut in half, scoop out and discard seeds. Scoop out 2 cups of kabocha flesh and reserve. The rest of the flesh can be put in a Ziploc bag and stored in the freezer.
4. Blend together rice, its soaking water and toasted pine nuts until smooth.
5. Bring up the blended mix from Step 4, 1 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil over medium heat. Stir constantly so that it doesn't burn on the bottom. The liquid will thicken first as big bubbles come up. It will loosen again as it cooks, about 15 minutes.
6. Once the soup gets loose, mix in the reserved 2 cups of kabocha flesh. Bring up to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Taste to make sure everything is cooked completely (no hard bites). Feel free to add more water or milk to adjust consistency. Bring it up to a boil then remove from heat.
7. For a velvety smooth texture, let the soup cool for 10 minutes then blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds for garnish and serve warm.
! TIPS !
! Before Step 5, you can also start the soup by sautéing garlic, onion and herbs (such as thyme) to add more savory flavors to the soup.