Joyce Jue is an old friend and extraordinary cook, cookbook writer, newspaper columnist, and culinary adventurer, specializing in exotic luxury cruises along the border of Southeast Asia designed just for foodies. Here is one of her special soups using one of our favorite winter squashes, the kabocha, adapted for the slow cooker. Joyce comments that this recipe tastes far more exciting than it reads and that it makes a great opener for western or Asian dinner menus. Other hard-shelled squashes such as butternut, acorn, or the traditional sugar pumpkin can be substituted, but the taste of the Japanese kabocha is really special.
Cooker: Large Round or Oval
Machine Setting and Cook Time: High Heat: 4 to 5 hours
6 stalks fresh lemongrass
3 tablespoons dried shrimp, soaked warm water for 10 minutes
6 large shallots, peeled and quartered
6 fresh red serrano or jalapeño chiles, seeded
6 13 1/2-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 pounds kobacha pumpkin, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
18 kaffir lime leaves, or the zest of 1 lime
3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
Two large handfuls of fresh basil leaves
1. First prepare the Spice Paste: Trim the roots and tops from the lemongrass, using only the bottom 6-inches. Peel away the tough outer layers (called bracts) until you see a light purple ring to expose the tender edible heart. Coarsely chop the heart and put into a mini-food processor or blender with the drained dried shrimp, shallots, chilies and just enough water (or the shrimp soaking liquid) to facilitate blending the ingredients into a purée.
2. To make the soup, open the cans of coconut milk without shaking them. Scrape off the top, about 3/4 cup thick cream and put it into a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then add the blended spice paste and stir constantly for about 5 minutes.
3. Place the broth, remaining coconut milk, pumpkin, and 12 of the kaffir lime leaves in the crock; add the coconut-spice paste mixture. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours, until the pumpkin is tender. Season with the fish sauce and sugar. Remove the kaffir lime leaves with a slotted spoon and replace with the remaining unused 6 kaffir leaves. Stir in the lime juice and basil leaves. Recover and let stand 10 minutes. Serve hot.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2017
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.