Thai Chili Kabocha Squash Soup

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We were spoiled with a balmy, lengthy fall this year, but the frigid temperatures this week affirm that winter is upon us. It's time for poofy coats, wool socks and lots of soup. 

I'm entering my tenth winter as a mainlander and only in the past year or so has soup become a food to comfort and sooth me. You would think that the temperature alone would be something to covet on a cold winter day, but it has surprised me how long it has taken to honestly crave a bowl of soup. I guess comfort foods speak to a deeper level of habit and familial traditions. 

Thai food was always among my favorite cuisines growing up. Dining out was a rare occasion, but a little hole in the wall Thai restaurant in Hilo was among the five or so restaurants in my family's rotation. This soup blends a childhood comfort food with my new found adoration of soup, making it a foolproof combination for our first wintery week of the season. 

When blended in soups, kabocha squash lends an incredibly rich and velvety texture. It is sweeter than most pumpkins and squash, making it a great accompaniment to the hot chilis, garlic, ginger and shallots in the recipe. 


Thai Chili Kabocha Squash Soup 

Serves 4-6 

1 kabocha squash
2 -4 tablespoons chili paste (recipe below)
1 t coriander, ground
1 t cumin, ground
1 can coconut milk
3 cups water
1 T coconut oil 
1 t salt
cilantro and sesame oil to garnish 
 
To prepare your squash, cut into wedges, remove seeds and peel using a knife or vegetable peeler. Cut into 1 inch cubes. 
 
Heat a large pot on the stove over medium to high heat. Add 1 T of coconut oil and the chili paste (the spice level will vary depending on the freshness of the chilis, so add chili paste to your desired heat level). Cook for about one minute, allowing the flavors to bloom in the oil. Add in coriander and cumin, and cook for another minute. Add squash, coconut milk, water and salt. Simmer for bout 20 minutes, or until squash is soft and mashable. 
 
Remove from heat and blend in a blender until smooth. You will need to do this in several batches, do not overfill the blender. Once blended, pour into a clean pot, season with salt. To serve top with cilantro and a drizzle of sesame oil. 

 

Thai Chili Paste Recipe 

Yield: 1 cup 

3 shallots, peeled 
2 red chilis
2 thai chilis
4 inch piece of ginger, peeled
6 inch piece of lemon grass
6 cloves garlic
2 kaffir leaves
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
 
Roughly chop all ingredients and blend in a food processor or mortar and pestle until a paste-like consistency is reached. 
This recipes makes more than needed. Freeze the extra in ice cup trays, pop out one or two cubes  and use in soups and marinades. 
 
Note: Peppers vary greatly in heat levels, I choose to keep the seeds in my chilis, but if you are sensitive to spice remove and discard seeds.