Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thai Kabocha Squash Bisque

Secret Ingredient - The Kabocha Squash/Pumpkin

I was first introduced to this wonderful squash a few months ago at a cooking group.  I stood amazed at how quickly it cooks as my friend was stir-frying it.  When cut, It looks very like an ordinary pumpkin so I thought automatically that it will take sometime for the dish to be ready.  I was a bit leery about its flavor at first.  It was not the first dish I reached out to try when my friends all sat down to eat.  In fact, I had to be prompted to try the dish.

I was hooked at first bite, it was so beyond my imagination.  The flavor is nutty, sweet and rich, and the texture was that of chestnut (which I happen to love). Delicious!   I could not stop eating it, it is addictive!   Not only does it taste good but one of those super foods that is rich in beta carotene, with iron, vitamin C, potassium, and smaller traces of calcium, folic acid, and minute amounts of B vitamins.  Ever since then, I have used Kabocha in many dishes, from appetizer to dessert and then this bisque...   I hope you will enjoy this as much as I did and still do. There is no milk or cream in this recipe yet it taste every bit as rich as if there is.  It is amazing!
Watch out! now that the secret is out - I will know why if there is a sudden shortage of Kabocha squash in the stores. Get cooking and get addicted.

I formulated this recipe after experimenting and eating this squash quite a few times and have cooked it using different techniques so I quickly got acquainted with its texture and flavor.  It was eye-opening to see how versatile the squash is as I surfed the net and read all kinds of recipes.
I have been stewing over what else I can do with this squash and everything came together when  a good friend called to ask me to make a Thai Beef Salad for one of her business dinner meetings.   To compliment the salad, it seems only appropriate to infuse some 'Thai Flavors' like lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger and coconut into the bisque.  
I want the rich and nutty flavors of the squash to shine through so I decided to just add a touch of coconut milk before serving.   The richness of the squash balanced well with the fresh citrus herbs.  A new bisque is born...  :) !  

(Makes about 2 1/2 quarts)


1 medium kabocha squash, about 3 pounds, cut in half, seeds removed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil 
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic 
3 stalks lemon grass, tough tops and outer leaves removed, finely chopped, about ⅓ cup
1 tablespoon grated ginger
3 Kaffir lime leaves 
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 quarts, 6 cups of a good all natural unsalted vegetable stock (for vegetarian bisque)
 or chicken stock

Coconut milk for drizzling


1. Preheat the oven to 400º

2. Place the squash, cut side down, in a baking dish with a little water. Cover and roast until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out of the skin. You should have about 4 cups.

3. Heat the oil in a soup pot and add the shallots,  with 1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper and cook until they begin to soften, about two minutes. Add the garlic, lemon grass and ginger and cook for 2 minutes. Add the squash, the stock, and the lime leaf and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes.

4. Remove the Kaffir lime leaves and puree the squash mixture in a blender until smooth (Run it through a food mill if you want a finer texture).  Return to the pot over medium-low heat. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with a drizzle of coconut milk before serving.

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